Thursday, December 29, 2011

Session Amber Lager (Accidental Munich Dunkel): Tasting and Recipe



Wow, about 2 months since my last post! That's a record I think. One of the reasons why is that I have decided to wait to post recipes until I do the tasting too. So I have been brewing, but the posts will go up later.

For this beer, I was looking to make a beer that would be reminiscent of an Ayinger lager, especially their Oktoberfest, although once again I did not have their exact lager strain (which would be the Wyeast "Hella Bock" seasonal strain). I wanted it to be dark, melanoidin rich, and slightly sweet, with a big flavor profile but low alcohol. I wasn't looking to make a lager "to style", but I think it's a great example of a Munich Dunkel.


TASTING NOTES:

Appearance: Dark brown with a stable tan head that leaves a great lacing. Ruby highlights, clear but not "filtered" clear.

Aroma: Dark toasted breadcrusts, with a slight fruity sweetness from crystal malts. Very little to no hop aroma, slight alcohol contribution. Robust maltiness and a clean lager profile with maybe just a touch of sulfur (which dissipated as beer spent more time lagering).

Flavor: Toasty, Munich malt derived breadcrust, Moderate sweetness, low caramel flavor, but balanced more towards toasty flavors from malts. Moderate bitterness, very clean. Slight trace of hop flavor, then it ends with dry, toasty malt and clean residual bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, a little chewy, hearty enough for winter or fall but not too thick or filling. Moderate carbonation, low alcohol warmth, dry finish with just a touch of astringency.

Overall: This beer is a hit with Clarissa, who has a high appreciation for drinkable, flavorful session beers (you know, the kind us beer geeks think are "boring" and hardly ever brew). I like it a lot, and it's very close to what I was going for, but still I see room for improvement. I'd like to reduce the "bready" impact just a touch, and increase the perception of a light sweetness by dropping the IBU's just a touch. It's a great "dinner" beer, and you can have an imperial pint and go back for another. This keg definitely won't last long.

Recipe: Session amber lager

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.015
ABV: 4.3%
Estimated Color: 15.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.1 IBUs
Mash Efficiency: 88.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
5 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 61.5 %
2 lbs Munich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 22.4 %
8.0 oz Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.6 %
12.0 oz Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 3 8.4 %
3.0 oz Carafa III (525.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.1 %

17.00 g Perle [7.10 %] - First Wort 90.0 min Hop 6 19.2 IBUs
14.00 g Perle [7.10 %] - Boil 15.0 min Hop 7 3.8 IBUs

1.0 pkg Bohemian Lager (Wyeast Labs #2124) [124. Yeast 8 -


Notes:
------
4 gallons water, 1 gr. gypsum, 2 gr. CaCl, 2 gr. CaCO3
Mash in to 125F, 15 min.
Raised to 153 over 10 min, hold 30 min
Raised to 158 over 5 min, hold 15 min
Raised to 168 over 5 min, rest 5 min

sparge w/ 5 gal at 168 (no minerals)
Collect 6.8 gallons at 1.044
Boil 90 minutes, yeast nutrient and whirlfloc at 10 min.
End of boil: top up to 6 gallons (hot)
whirlpool & rest 10 min
chill thru plate chiller to 62
2 min O2
leave in garage at ambient temp (48) until visible fermentation
cooled to 50 degrees by 8 hours and visibly fermenting
fermented at 48-50 for 2 weeks
brought inside for diacetyl rest (65ish) for 1 week
11/23 Racked to keg, aged 3 weeks at 35 before drinking

Starter: 3750 ml stirplate starter 4 days ahead at room temp, decanted. Bohemian Lager yeast.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tasting: Fresh Hop Spelt Saison


Sorry for the delay on posting this. I did the Fresh Hop Spelt Saison tasting during the first week of November and I just hadn't gotten around to putting it up.

Aroma: Huge fruit profile from esters and hops: I'm getting juicy fruit, orange, tangerine, passionfruit, hop spicyness and peppery esters with a touch of alcohol warmth. A little pils malt is in the background, as well as a wheaty aroma from the spelt.

Appearance: This beer threw a big raw-wheaty haze when youger, but it's surprisingly clear after about a month in the keg. A slight haze with a light gold pilsner hue. Nice glass lacing, starts with a huge head and falls back to an even 1/4 inch head after a few minutes in the glass.

Flavor: Nice balance of bready, slightly sweet malt, with a big spicy hop flavor contribution. Bitterness is not much higher than say, Saison Dupont, which is a really nice level, as in, it's not a Belgian IPA. Like a lot of fresh-hopped beers I have tried, even my favorite professionally brewed ones, it has a slightly sticky/soapy bitterness at the end. It almost gives a bit of a "cottonmouth" after swallowing. Very drinkable, it ends dry and spicy with a touch of warming alcohol.

Mouthfeel: The raw spelt provides some big body considering the very low final gravity. It's almost creamy. Some of the soapy character I mentioned above in the back of the mouth after swallowing. Very smooth otherwise, no astringency or harsh alcohols.

Overall: I'm super impressed with how this beer turned out. The fairly moderate IBU's keeps this beer a very true saison, while the big aroma and flavor hop profile makes it a bold fresh-hop beer. It's very drinkable and I've never tasted a beer quite like it. I am a little less than impressed with the soapy quality from the hops, but it is not too high. It's more of a nuance that I would like to work out in future incarnations of this beer. I don't think there is anything to do about it except use less fresh hops, which I would be willing to cut back on slightly in the future. Working with the raw spelt was a breeze. The only drawbacks it seems to have is that it is very hard to crush, like probably any unmalted grain would be, and it requires a step infusion mash, but clearly not a cereal mash. I'd highly recommend playing around with the grain, especially in saisons or other beers that require some raw grain contribution.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tasting and Recipe: Cherrywood Smoked Porter


Well screw it: I was going to save this for later but after drinking half a glass of the Calypso Pale Ale, I decided I'd wash my mouth out with something I like a little better. This is a new beer I had not posted a recipe on yet: a smoked porter using Briess Cherrywood smoked malt. We have a sack of of this malt at the brewery and it smells really damn good, like a barbeque in the summertime. Pork ribs come to mind as well as BBQ potato chips, although it's much better than that. It's very tasty to eat on it's own. I was going for a well-balanced recipe, so I erred on the more reserved side as far as percentage of smoked malt, using only 12% in the grist. Well, let's get to the tasting first and then the recipe:

Appearance: Reddish-tan head, not quite black body but could pass for a stout. Nice head retention!

Aroma: Smoke, but light, slightly burnt roast character with a hint of molasses, unsweetened cocoa, and sharpness. A touch of warming alcohols, not surprisingly hardly any hop aroma. No Diacetyl, low esters. Very enticing.

Flavor: Caramel, followed by a quick hit of dry roastyness, and a subtle but lingering smokey finish. A touch of that "cherry cola" sharpness I get from certain proters and stouts. Hop bitterness is moderate, this is not a sweet beer. Finish is roasty, chocolatey, with a mild campfire-smoke that stays for a while.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied but not cloying, slightly creamy, moderate carbonation, spicy and dry roast with just a touch of roasted astringency.

Overall: Lovin' it. This beer has been a real hit so far with other people. I am in some ways tempted to tweak it (maybe dial down the black malt by just a smidge since it is toeing the line of stout, or up the smoked by a hair and the bitterness down by just a few IBU's), but then again, sometimes you start doing all this stuff and realize you had it right the first time. For now I'm just drinking it. One thing I think really works for this beer is it's smokey enough for people that are looking for a touch of smoke, but not so much that it would turn off a regular porter drinker. This keg will kick fast, and then I'll want more.

Here's the recipe:

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Cherrywood-smoked porter
Brewer:
Asst Brewer:
Style: Robust Porter
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (30.0)

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
OG: 1.061 SG
FG: 1.019
ABV: 5.5%
Estimated Color: 34.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 38.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
1 lbs 8.0 oz Cherrywood Smoked malt (5.0 SRM) Grain 2 12.2 %
8.0 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 6 4.1 %
8.0 oz Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 3 4.1 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.1 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 5 4.1 %
4.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 7 2.0 %
8 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 69.4 %
18.00 g Falconer's Flight [10.50 %] - Boil 60.0 Hop 8 27.0 IBUs
28.00 g Falconer's Flight [10.50 %] - Boil 15.0 Hop 9 11.2 IBUs
1.0 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 Yeast 10 -


Notes:
------
Mash: 4.25 gal + 3 gr. chalk, 1 gr. Gypsum, 2 gr. CaCl
to 151, rest 45 min, fell to 146
bring up to 162 over 10 min, rest 10 min
Sparge: 5 gal at 168, no salts, 30 minutes

Collect 7 gallons @ 1.052
Boil as noted, nutrient & whirlfloc at 10 min

Whirlpool & rest 15 min
Chill thru plate chiller over 20 min to 70
oxygen 60 seconds
pitch 2nd gen Wyeast 1056 (1 week refrigerated)
Ferment at 68, then keg.

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Tasting: Calypso Pale Ale


A tasting of the dry-hopped, all-Calypso pale ale I did recently:

Appearance: Hazy burnished orange, definitely some hop or chill haze going on that I would like to fine out if it were a commercial beer, but which I'm fine with for a homebrew. Fairly resilient head and nice glass lacing.

Aroma: Hoppy, but not assertively aromatic, vaguely fruity hops with a touch of red apple, pine, and a little onion. Light grassy/bready grain background, very clean low esters and alcohol aroma. No diacetyl. Not bad, not very memorable as far as the hops go.

Flavor: Fairly balanced between bready, caramelly malts and grassy hops. A slightly rough, almost burnt quality of bitterness enters in the flavor mid-palate and seems to linger long after swallowing. Not overly bitter, but at the same time, not a clean or crisp bitterness. Dry finish, no alcohol bite or fermentation off-flavors

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, medium carbonation adds some spicy, prickly character. Just slightly astringent on the gums, which I would think is hop derived rather than malt derived. Clean finish, rather easy to drink.

Overall: Some aspects of this beer I really like. I like the malty, grainy character provided by the fairly large percentage of Vienna malt and crystal malt, although if I were truly looking to design a "perfect" pale ale, I would dial them both back just a touch. The Calypso hops, I have to say, I am not too excited about. The high cohumulone percentage definitely seems to have added a rough bitter aftertaste that I think doesn't make it ideal for a bittering hop, yet on the other hand, the aroma is not really that astounding compared to the more choice American varieties like Simcoe, Amarillo, Citra, or Centennial. So I don't really know where this hop finds its place, either as a bittering or flavor/aroma hop, but maybe other people will have more success with it than I did. Overall, it's a fairly good beer, but the keg is not moving very fast, which is always a sign of how drinkable it really is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fresh-Hop Spelt Saison with Paul Key

It's wonderful to be out in the Northwest, so close to the hop fields, where every year we get to brew up a special batch (or three) of fresh-hop beer. Paul Key, my fellow homebrewer-geek, had a nice harvest of Fuggle and Columbus hops growing in his front yard right here in Portland. He was able to knock out a couple of fresh-hop IPA's, and I pitched the idea of getting together for some kind of fresh-hop saison. We kicked around some ideas and came up with this: A pale, moderately strong saison, with about 30% raw spelt in the mash (inspired by Brasserie Blaugies' Saison D'epeautre), moderate-high IBU's for the style at an estimated 30+ IBU, and brewed with a blend of commercial saison yeasts. I certainly have high hopes for it, as the spelt mash had a unique character, and the fresh hops, all added at knock-out, had an intense citrus-orange-spice pungency.

We picked most of the hops while working on a long step-infusion mash, with a protein rest. We didn't have much info on spelt as a grain, which we just bought from Whole Foods, but we assumed that because it was a type of wheat, that it would probably have a similar gelatinization point. Wheat gelatinizes at regular mash sacharification temperatures, so if spelt is the same, that means you don't need a "cereal mash" which would incorporate boiling the spelt to gelatinize it prior to adding it to the mash. I have seen a good deal of internet homebrew recipes with raw spelt that call for a cereal mash, and I don't see how it's necessary. Anything I found online suggested that it gelatinizes at similar temperatures to wheat. Anyway, we actually did an iodine starch-conversion test after our sach rest to make sure we had fully converted the mash, and it showed that we got good conversion.

Runoff was aided by some rice hulls, but we had no problems with a stuck mash whatsoever. Probably could have gotten away without them but it's always good insurance.

We bittered with pelletized hops to keep the IBU's somewhat predictable, and used a boatload of fresh hops at knockout only. These sat in the mash for 20 minutes during "whirlpool", and then an additional 25 minutes while we transfered through the heat exchanger. I think this provides a really nice hop profile and it's very close to what happens in a professional brewery.
We lost quite a bit of wort from the hops, which we forgot to consider when designing the recipe, but I don't think we could have done much about it anyway. Based on our kettle size, we made the biggest batch we could. Sometimes it is just better to collect less wort than do tricky stuff to increase the volume, and neither Paul or I are ever hurting for beer to drink. It's OK to have a smaller yield sometimes.


We decided to go with a saison yeast blend for this beer, which is the first time I have tried blending saison yeasts right off the bat. But both Paul and I have come up really frustrated with the Dupont yeast as a sole fermenter in the past, so this blend will be worth trying in a few beers. We decided to pitch both the "Dupont" strain and the "French Saison" strain, with twice as much Dupont yeast. The fermentation was started rather cool and ramped to 80 over a few days, a good compromise between the French strain which produces plenty of character at cooler temps, and the Dupont yeast which can't seem to finish out if it drops below 85 degrees. The French saison yeast will definitely help attenuate the beer faster when the Dupont yeast slows to a crawl in the last 1/3rd of fermentation.

On a side note, the French Saison yeast has been a bit bothersome for me in the past too, it definitely has its own problems. I have noticed that it tends to dry a beer out almost excessively, so that if there are any tannins from grain extraction at all, it tends to accentuate them and leave an annoying tannic astringency in the beer. We tried to alleviate that with a good dose of calcium to the mash and the sparge water, which should keep the pH low and avoid extracting any harsh tannins in the first place. I think that should help.

Well, I'm looking forward to tasting this beer and using the blend in at least one other brew. If you brewed any interesting fresh hop beers, feel free to brag about them in the comments. Cheers!

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Fresh-hop Spelt Saison

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Boil Size: 13.50 gal
OG: 1.056 SG
F.G. 1.006
Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 24.1 IBUs
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
15 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Canada (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 66.7 %
7 lbs Spelt - Raw (1.0 SRM) Grain 2 31.1 %
8.0 oz Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) Adjunct 3 2.2 %
74.00 g Delta [4.50 %] - Boil 90.0 min Hop 4 24.1 IBUs
1.0 pkg Belgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) [124. Yeast 5 -
1.0 pkg French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711) [50.28 Yeast 6 -



Notes:
-Used Paul's mash kettle w/ false bottom for mash and boil too-----

Water additions: 4 gr. Gyspum, 4 gr. CaCl to mash, same to sparge
8 gallons mash water, mash in to 126 for 20 min
Add heat & stir for 15 minutes to 147, rest 20 min
Add heat and bring to 155 over 7 minutes, rest 30 min
Bring up to 168 over 20 min

Sparge with 9 gallons at 168 over 40 min
collect 13.5

boil 90 min, additions as noted
yeast nutrient/whirlfloc at 10 min
Knock-out fresh hops:
1 lb. Fuggle
2.25 lb. Columbus

Steep 20 min while setting up.
run off probably 25 minutes, lost track.
maybe lost extra gallon from hops, about 9 gallons in fermenter, plus .5 gallon starter
chill to 70
pitch starter and oxygenate 2 minutes
Fermented at 68-70 for first 24 hours
Ramped to 80 by day 3
Keg carbonated after hitting terminal gravity

Yeast starter:
Very fresh Dupont pack: 90% Viability
Older 3711 pack: 55% Viability
Both into a 2L stirplate starter, should give approx 2:1 ratio

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Calypso Pale Ale


I haven't posted any recipes in a while, but I've been brewing a bit. For my friends Tony and Annie's recent wedding, we re-brewed a beer I was very happy with: the Belgian summer ale with lemon verbena, yarrow, and grains of paradise. The brew went off very well, and was pretty much identical to the first brew. The only thing we changed was the yarrow: it was a different varietal of yarrow (whatever is growing in our front yard, with yellow flowers), and we used the flowers as opposed to the leaves, which I think added a more floral/honey character and less of the slight aspirin bitterness that the leaves add. The beer was very well received at the wedding party, and we kicked 5 gallons pretty fast. We also bottle conditioned 5 gallons, and primed the bottles with wildflower honey. I'll do a tasting of that pretty soon for the blog.

On to yesterday's brew: We have a few new varieties of hops to play with at Cascade: Bravo, Delta, and Calypso. These are all fairly new hybrids. I wanted to do a single-hop brew with one of these, so I started by doing an aroma evaluation and checking out their information sheets. The Bravo is pretty much a high-alpha bittering hop, not much aroma going on there, so that was out. The Delta is apparently a cross between a Cascade male and a Fuggle. It has a nice, mild, pleasant aroma but it didn't seem extremely unique. I figure I'll save that for another brew, possibly an all-Delta saison or something. The Calypso is apparently a dual-purpose hop. It immediately stood out as having an intense fruity aroma, not much pine or resin, just sort of a high, almost sharp fruityness that reminded me a bit of blackberries or wine. That was definitely the type of hop that I was looking for, something with a unique character that was going to make its mark in a straightforward, hoppy pale ale.

The Calypso information claims that the hop has a "pleasant fruity aroma, with hints of pear and apple". It comes in at 12.8% Alpha Acid (which I guess would almost be considered a mid-alpha hop in today's age of many 16+% bittering varieties. The one thing that stood out was its huge cohumulone percentage: 40-42%. I don't think I have ever seen another hop this high in cohumulone, ever. It used to be widely accepted that higher cohumulone hops contributed a rougher, less refined bitterness than lower cohumulone varieties. I don't know if this is entirely true though, it seems that that theory is being challenged a bit these days. So, we'll see if this hop seems more bitter in this brew or contributes any "rough" bitter character to the brew.

Personally, I don't think assertively hopped American ales need to shy away from a slightly rough character. Grown-ups like hop flavor and bitterness. As long as there's nothing too funky or astringent in the aftertaste, I think a bit of roughness is to be expected. It's not a Czech pilsner after all, it's a hoppy American ale. In any case, I did decide to dial back by just a few IBU's just in case this hop really seemed to be more bitter than the IBU's would suggest. I also didn't fully "hop-load" the end of the boil, the time at which cohumulone doesn't have a chance to get changed into mellower compounds (don't ask me to look up what it gets changed to, if you're interested in stuff like that, check out Principals of Brewing Science, or do an online search).

Anyway, enough blabbing, here's a recipe, have at it.

Recipe: Calypso Pale Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
OG: 1.054 SG
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.1%
Estimated Color: 9.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
7 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 66.7 %
8.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.8 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 3 4.8 %
2 lbs 8.0 oz Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 2 23.8 %
25.00 g Calypso [12.80 %] - Boil 20.0 min Hop 6 15.6 IBUs
28.00 g Calypso [12.80 %] - Boil 0.0 min Hop 8 0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Calypso [12.80 %] - Boil 10.0 min Hop 7 10.4 IBUs
9.00 g Calypso [12.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 16.7 IBUs
42.00 g Calypso Dry hop - in bags

Notes:
------
2 gr. gypsum, 1 gr. CaCl, to mash only.
Mash: 4 gallons H20, 153 for 55 minutes (fell to 149 over that time). Raised to 168 over 10 minutes,
Sparge with 5 gallons water at 165 over 30 minutes
Collected 6.75 gallons at 1.048 = 86% efficiency.

Boil as noted, with additions of Whirlfoc & Wyeast nutrient at 10 min.
After boil: Top up to 6.25 (hot volume), Whirlpool & Rest for 15 minutes.
Chill through Heat-X, rack to carboy, and add pure oxygen for 60 seconds.
Pitched 1 qt. stirplate-starter of Wyeast 1056, a little warm at 72, came down to 70 within an hour. Ferment at 68

Keg on 9/8/11, dry hops in 2 tea bags for 3 days warm, 10 days cold.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Better performance with Dupont Yeast

Ludd Lite

Since my last couple of saisons, I have had a little more time to work with Dupont yeast and get to know its performance over successive generations. I've also had the chance to work with it the pro level, with a collaboration saison I did with Ben Edmunds at Breakside.

Ben and I brewed a pretty much straight-up saison with Whitelabs 565, the equivalent yeast of Wyeast 3724 which I have been using. We brewed two 3.5-barrel batches into a 7 barrel fermenter, the second batch went in 24 hours after the first. We pitched a 5-7 bbl sized pitch of yeast, started fermentation at 80 degrees, and let it rise to the high 80's on its own. I don't remember the exact details on how long the beer took to ferment, but I think that it crunched down to 1.007 in only a week or so. That's pretty darn good. We were really happy with how the beer turned out, and it had a nice earthy Dupont-like aroma. So, there's at least one example of a good single-strain fermentation on a pro level. That's what I'm looking for. I'm betting the heavy yeast pitch was a big factor in the quick fermentation.

On the homebrew side of things, the second generation brew, "Ludd Lite", was a low-gravity beer to begin with, and dried out to a fairly bone-dry 1.005 within 3 weeks. I don't know how long it took to hit that gravity, that's just when I got around to racking it to a keg. It's a pretty decent beer, not the most complex beer I've ever brewed, but very drinkable. It's surprisingly tart, farmy, with a little corn flavor and some hops coming through. I think it could use a bit more bitterness but the hop flavor is pretty nice. This isn't a beer that would make beer geeks go crazy, but it's a light summer ale that's easy to drink and more interesting than a light lager or (in my opinion) an "American wheat". Fermentation and recipe details for that beer are here.

The 3rd generation saison was brewed about 3 weeks ago. It's a brown or amber saison that I used a considerable amount of specialty malts on, but also some D2 Candi syrup. This beer didn't dry out to bone-dry, at least not yet, but we'll see if it drops another couple points over the the next month or so hanging out in secondary. It may just be done, and if so, that's OK, because it tastes like a really tasty Dubbel made with an earthy, estery farmhouse twist. I used a very small amount of lemon thyme in the brew, but so far it hasn't reared it's head in the flavor or aroma. So we'll see, maybe I could go a little heavier than that next time.

Clarissa's Birthday Amber Saison
Saison
Type: All GrainDate: 07/08/2011
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 galBrewer:
Boil Size: 6.48 galAsst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 minEquipment: 6 gallon - SS mashtun
Final Bottling Volume: 4.50 galBrewhouse Efficiency: 78.00
Fermentation: Ale, Two StageTaste Rating(out of 50): 30.0
Taste Notes:

Ingredients

Ingredients
AmtNameType#%/IBU
1 lbsCandi Sugar, D2 syrup (160.0 SRM)Sugar119.1 %
12.0 ozWhite Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)Grain36.8 %
8.0 ozCaramunich Malt (56.0 SRM)Grain44.5 %
12.0 ozMunich Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM)Grain26.8 %
8.0 ozVictory Malt (25.0 SRM)Grain54.5 %
1.0 pkgBelgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) [124.21 ml]Yeast10-
21.00 gPerle [8.20 %] - Boil 85.0 minHop627.2 IBUs
14.00 gCrystal [4.30 %] - Boil 15.0 minHop72.5 IBUs
28.00 gCrystal [4.30 %] - Boil 0.0 minHop80.0 IBUs
2.00 gLemon Thyme, fresh leaves, picked (Boil 0.0 mins)Spice9-
7 lbs 8.0 ozCanadian "Super Pils" (2.0 SRM)Grain168.2 %

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.061 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.060 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.007 SGMeasured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.1 %Actual Alcohol by Vol: 6.3 %
Bitterness: 29.7 IBUsCalories: 200.7 kCal/12 oz
Est Color: 20.3 SRM

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash OutTotal Grain Weight: 11 lbs
Sparge Water: 3.93 galGrain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 FTun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUEMash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Mash InAdd 16.00 qt of water at 159.4 F149.0 F75 min
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: BottleVolumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 100.20 gCarbonation Used: Bottle with 100.20 g Corn Sugar
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 FAge for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two StageStorage Temperature: 65.0 F

Notes

Mash 4 gallons at 160 plus 1 gr. Gypsum, 2 gr. CaCl
Mash in to 149
50 min, fell to 144.
direct heat to 154 over 5 min, rest 15 min, no mash out

Sparge 5 gal, same salts, 165



90 min boil
15 minute rest after KO, added candi syrup and whirlpooled.
Chill thru plate chiller to 75 degrees
oxygen 90 seconds
pitched maybe 100 ml saison yeast (rinsed and suspended in beer) at 75
Fermentation peaked at 95 by 24 hours (with heating pad)
After 10 days, temperature was dropped by 2 degrees per day to 85

7/26 Racked to secondary, flavor is very good. 1.012

Created with BeerSmith




I harvested the yeast once again, and if I have time I'd like to do a 4th generation saison that would be a re-brew of original recipe, to s if I can get a better yeast performance with the same base recipe. The one thing I would like to do better is to pitch the successive generations in a more timely manner. So far it's been at least 3 weeks between brews, which is not ideal for yeast health, but so far it hasn't seemed to hurt much either.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hazelnut E.S.B. / Base Beer Tasting, and process REVEALED



Finally, here's an evaluation of the hazelnut beer I made a few months ago, and details on the hazelnut product I used as well as how I used it.

First, let's discuss the process, which I kept secret at first, but I promised I would get to. The hazelnut product I lucked into is produced by Freddy Guy Hazelnuts in Monmouth, Oregon. Clarissa and I regularly stock up on their dry-roasted hazelnuts at the PSU farmers market, and they are just great nuts. We put them in salads, breadcrumb mixes, desserts, and also we just snack on them when we have the munchies. A few months ago they had a little sign up that said something to the effect of "We sell hazelnut press cake for brewers, ask about it!" Hazelnut press cake is a by-product of their hazelnut oil. After the hazelnuts are pressed to extract most of (certainly not all of) the oil, a still very flavorful and largely oil-reduced hazelnut cake is left behind. As we all know, oil is the bane of foam stability in beer, and may muddle up the beer flavor in other ways.
Fritz, one of the owners of Freddy Guy, has experimented with hazelnuts in his own homebrew. He typically uses a pound of nuts in 5 gallons, 5 minutes from the end of the boil, to achieve a good hazelnut flavor in his brews. While this would be a great way to introduce them to a recipe as a homebrewer, I am always thinking of how this might pan out on a commercial system. First off, I would worry about about small chunks of hazelnuts slipping into the heat exchanger, which could be very difficult to get back out. It seems like they might even plug up or stop a runnoff completely in a worst-case scenario. Maybe not, but it could be a risk. They could be bagged up, but that would be 30 or more pounds to bag up for a in a 10 barrel brew. My aim with this homebrew was to isolate the the hazelnut contribution by having a clean version of the beer to compare it to, so I decided to add my hazelnuts to half of the beer post-fermentation.

I added 1 lb., 2 oz. of hazelnut press cake to 4.5 gallons of the base beer. The beer had finished primary fermentation and the "clean" half was racked directly to a keg. I prepped the hazelnuts by adding them to 1 quart of boiling water to semi-sanitize them. They do soak up liquid and they soaked up the quart of water completely, so they will decrease your beer yield if they are not rehydrated in some way. Then I funneled them into a large carboy which was then purged with CO2. The beer was transferred on top of this and kept at 68-ish for 2 weeks. I would have only kept it on for a week, but then, you know, life happened, and it just sat around in my back room until I found time to empty out and clean a keg to transfer it to. I periodically spun the carboy to get the nuts back up in suspension. I did see a small trace of oil on top of the beer, but I just tried to leave it behind when siphoning to a keg. The kegged beer was not fined. I just had about 3/4 inch of the dip-tube cut off to leave any sediment at the bottom.

THE COMPARISON:

Base Beer: Nutty, carmelly malt aroma, light citrus/fruity esters from yeast and late hops, but malt-balanced. A touch of tobacco aroma at the end. Deep copper-red hue, good clarity but not crystal clear, with light bubbles. Low foam stand, probably just from lower carbonation. Flavor is malty, like a good amber ale, with plenty of caramel and biscuit flavor from malts and high level of crystal malts, but not cloying. Hop flavor is moderate, spicy, and grassy. Medium-full bodied mouthfeel, finish is dry. Nice drinking beer, not really an E.S.B., more of an American Amber. I could see having a couple of pints in a row with dinner or a yard-work session.

Hazelnut Beer: Exactly the same in appearance as the base beer, no excess haze or particulate, and both have a light wispy head. Aroma is definitively hazelnutty, but it is different than that of a hazenut-extract beer (i.e. it does not smell like hazelnut-flavored coffee or Torani syrup). There is a certain smooth, creamy, nut-buttery quality to it, a light floral perfumeyness, as well as a dry-roasted presence. It's not restrained, it's very much the dominant aroma, but still smells like beer. The hops are not as present in the aroma, and the malt plays a background role. Flavor is like the base beer, but with a sweeter presence similar to almond extract, and a slight dry-roasted nut finish. Not as bitter or hoppy (going back to the base beer for a taste it seems really hoppy in comparison) but it has a nutty dryness at the end. Overall, I think it really captures the essence of the hazenut. The flavor combination works, and I would say it's a very drinkable beer. All the same, maybe the hazelnut level is a bit (like 25%) too high, because I think after a pint of this I would be ready to move on to a different beer. The hazelnut aroma/flavor seems to be powerful enough to potentially stand up to a stronger base beer like a porter or stout.

If you are interested in obtaining some press cake for brewing, and if you do not live in the area, you should contact Freddy Guy's via their website. It looks like they have a mail-order page, and although they do not have the press-cake listed their, I'll bet they would be willing to ship it if you asked nicely. It looks like minimum orders are $25, so you might want to go in on it with some friends or buy some other stuff too. I can't say the exact price they would charge for the cake, but it is probably a pretty good deal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ludd Lite Saison 1.0, and first impressions of Beersmith 2.0

(Above: Typical Oregon summer. You have to dress your carboys up like Kenny from South Park and, use heating pads to keep your saisons warms enough!)

This is a pretty "corny" name for a recipe...I was kind of conceptualizing a product that could be marketed one day, even though in all honesty I will probably never call it Ludd Lite (if I did I would probably get a cease and desist request in the mail from a certain macro-brewer). I have always been interested in a saison using all American ingredients, and more specifically, one brewed 6-row barley and corn. So, this was really just a daydream, but I wanted to see how the beer might actually taste: a low gravity "entry level" craft beer that is actually a saison, but takes significant influence from macro-American-lagers. I guess the real trick is making a beer that is super-drinkable but also substantial enough not to be called "watery". We'll see how it comes out. The "Ludd" part of the name is kind of a jokey reference to Ned Ludd, the legendary leader of the Luddite movement in England which rebelled/rioted against automated machinery in the workplace taking away from skilled human jobs. It seems to fit the saison/farmhouse philosophy of doing things.

I'm still pulling my hair out over this damn Wyeast 3724 (Saison Dupont) yeast. I had my first generation batch (the saison with rye) in the keg/secondary with an airlock, kept warm at 85 degrees for 3 weeks. It was bubbling slowly but constantly, so I was hopeful that it was dropping in gravity...until I pulled a sample yesterday during my brew session. It has only dropped 2 points in that time from 1.026 to 1.024! Damn, that was so frustrating I almost stopped my brew session right there. But I decided to keep going, and it did encourage me to pitch and ferment even hotter this time. So far that seems to be paying off with a visibly more vigorous ferment in the first 24 hours. I will pull about a quart off of the new beer to re-krausen the first saison, and hopefully that will do the trick in getting it going again.

Also, this is my first try at using Beersmith 2.0 for Mac. I have always used Promash in the past, even though I've had to keep a barely-working old IBM Thinkpad PC around to run it. Well, so far my opinion of Beersmith is that it's good, but in some ways incredibly over-engineered. I'm sure part of that is just getting used to a new program and figuring out how to do things, but it seems like it is trying to automate too much of the brewing decision making. For instance it is trying to tell me exactly how much water to use in my mash, when and how to do the mash steps, and I don't really brew like that. It's also trying to tell me how many days days it will take to ferment (if you know this yeast, that is even more of a knee-slapper). From the "Brewsheet" layout, I learned that on 7/29/11, I am supposed to "Drink and Enjoy", at which point I am supposed to self score my beer on a 50 point scale. It seems hard to just ignore these parts of the program, but maybe I can change my preferences or make them go away.

Also, with Promash I always used the mash-in temperature calculator to tell me what temp I should get my mash water to in order to hit my target mash temp, and it worked great within a degree every time. With Beersmith's calculator and I ended up mashing in 4-5 degrees hotter than I wanted (easy fix, just mix in a little extra cold water real fast). It is frustrating for now, but I want to try figure out these hangups before I gripe too much about it.

But...I can copy & paste the recipe reports! (Text in RED is some of the stuff that is just wrong or that I would prefer not to have automated and I don't know how to change yet.) If there's any confusion on numbers, see the "notes". They are correct.

Ludd Lite (6-Row, Corn, Crystal hops)
Belgian Specialty Ale
Type: All GrainDate: 06/15/2011
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.70 galBrewer:
Boil Size: 7.21 galAsst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 minEquipment: 6 gallon - SS mashtun
Final Bottling Volume: 5.20 galBrewhouse Efficiency: 88.00
Fermentation: Ale, Single StageTaste Rating(out of 50): 0.0
Taste Notes:

Ingredients

Ingredients
AmtNameType#%/IBU
3 lbs 9.0 ozPale Malt (6 Row) US (1.8 SRM)Grain151.4 %
2 lbsCorn, Flaked (1.3 SRM)Grain228.8 %
1 lbsWhite Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)Grain314.4 %
21.00 gCrystal [4.30 %] - Boil 60.0 minHop512.7 IBUs
21.00 gCrystal [4.30 %] - Boil 20.0 minHop64.3 IBUs
14.00 gCrystal [4.30 %] - Boil 0.0 minHop70.0 IBUs
6.0 ozCara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)Grain45.4 %
1.0 pkgBelgian Saison (Wyeast Labs #3724) [124.21 ml]Yeast8-

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.039 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.038 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.006 SGMeasured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.3 %Actual Alcohol by Vol: 4.3 %
Bitterness: 16.9 IBUsCalories: 0.0 kCal/12 oz
Est Color: 2.5 SRM

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash OutTotal Grain Weight: 6 lbs 15.0 oz
Sparge Water: 5.06 galGrain Temperature: 60.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 FTun Temperature: 155.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUEMash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Mash InAdd 11.94 qt of water at 157.1 F148.0 F75 min
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: KegVolumes of CO2: 2.7
Pressure/Weight: 17.22 PSICarbonation Used: Keg with 17.22 PSI
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 45.0 FAge for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Single StageStorage Temperature: 65.0 F

Notes

Yeast: Generation 2 Saison. Cold stored 4 weeks. 4 Tbsp thick slurry into a 1 quart stirplate starter with a little extra yeast nutrient, 24 hours before pitching.

Mash: 2 gr. gypsum, 2 gr. CaCl. Mashed in high: 153ish. Calculation said I would mash in to 149. Adjusted quickly with cold water. Fell to 140 over 45 minutes. Heated over 5 minutes to 154. Rest 20 min and sparge.

Sparge: 3.75 gallons at 170. 2 gr. Gypsum, 2 gr. CaCl.

Collect 5.5 gal at 1.040 = 88% efficiency

Top up with 2.5 qts
Boil 60 min
Wyeast nutrient (1 tsp) and whirlfloc at 10 min
Top up to 6 gallons (hot volume) at end of boil (should be 5.75 cold volume)
Whirlpool and chill thru plate chiller to 80 degrees
Collect 5.5 gallons
Oxygen 90 seconds
Put on heating pad immediately and dialed in to 90 degrees, it was fermenting within a couple hours.

6/16 ramped to 95

6/20 decreased to 93

6/21 decreased by 2 degrees per day, down to 85, and held there.

7/7 Racked to keg, 1.005. Force carbonate.



Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Saison, and Working with Dupont Yeast

Well, I still love saisons. That's no big news. I still love the Dupont yeast profile the best out of any of the commercially available saison strains. It's also a serious bitch to work with! At least in my experience, it takes forever to ferment, as in 6+ weeks even at high temperatures, if you're lucky. On a commercial level, that would be very problematic. I have never used the Dupont yeast in a pro brewery setting, but one day I want to own a brewery that will have a year-round saison offering, and it needs to ferment much quicker than that. I think 3 weeks fermentation (4 weeks to a finished kegged product or 6 weeks for bottle conditioned) would be acceptable, but more than that is really pushing it. Some pro brewers report (relatively) fast results with the Dupont yeast, at least after a few generations to warm up. Others resort to other strategies, like pitching a secondary yeast for attenuation. For now, I still want to see how it performs after a few generations to "warm-up" before resorting to other methods like using a yeast blend, or pitching a secondary yeast.

The following recipe is a first-generation pitch, and yes, the yeast is being it's normal bitchy self. I racked it over from primary after 3 weeks at 80+ degrees (it peaked at 90), and it was still only at 1.026. The flavor sample was great though, it really has that complex fruityness and a sort of earthy aftertaste that I have never really found in the other commercially available saison strains. The beer is currently sitting a secondary/keg with a blowoff, wrapped in a towel and a heating blanket which is keeping it at 85 degrees. It's still creeping along, and if it hasn't dropped substantially in another 2 weeks I'm going to give in and pitch a more attenuative yeast.

I added twice the Wyeast nutrient that I usually do for this batch, and I also gave it an extra 30 seconds of oxygen. I was not able to increase the yeast pitch, because my big Erlinmeyer flask was tied up in another brew, but I did make a 1 quart, stirplate starter. On successive batches I will try pitching more yeast, and maybe even let it get up to 95 degrees, and see if that helps.

House Saison - Beta version
Brewed on 4/29/11
Recipe is for 5.7 gallons, all grain, post-boil volume
O.G. 1.055 F.G. 1.006 ABV 6.5% IBU's 33

9 lb. Weyermann Pilsner malt
8 oz. Munich 10L
8 oz. flaked rye
4 oz. Belgian Aromatic
2 oz. British C 75

24 gr. Sterling pellets 7%AA 90 min
6 gr. Sterling pellets 7%AA 15 min
16 gr. Goldings pellets (U.S. I think) 4.9%AA 15 min
42 gr. Goldings pellets 4.9% 0 min

4 gal H2O + 2 gr. gypsum + 1 gr. CaCl
Mash in to 147, fell to 142 over 40 min
Heated to 149, rest 50 min
total mash time 90 min, no mash-out

Sparge with 5 gal H2O + 2 gr. gypsum (ran out of CaCl or it would have gotten a gram) at 170.
Collect 6.6 gallons at 1.048 = 81% efficiency

Boil 90 minutes, hop additions as noted
1 tsp. Wyeast nutrient & 1/2 whirlfloc tab at 10 min
whirlpool 1 min
rest 15 min
transfer thru plate chiller over 10 min
oxygen 90 seconds
pitched 1 quart stirplate starter of Wyeast 3724 at 70 degrees

Fermentation time/temp, adjusted by heating pad & thermostat combo:
Day 1: Pitch at 70, ramp to 75 that night
Day 2: 80 a.m, 85 evening
Day 3: 87 a.m, 90 evening
Day 4-7: 90
Day 8-23 turn down 1 degree per day til at 80, then hold

Racked to keg on 5/22, 1.026. Sheesh! holding at 85 degrees.
6/15 Still at 1.024...added 1 quart of Ludd Lite at high krausen to try and re-kick off fermentation. That took it to down to 1.017...Christ.
7/24 Added some top-cropped WLP 530 yeast, which took it down to 1.012. Yaaargh...
8/10 Added 1 pint of B. brux infused Dubbel to further attenuation.
9/1 Finally, Finally down to 1.006! The Brett did well, should have added it earlier, but I was trying to get it down with the original yeast. Hasn't aged out long enough to take on characteristic B. Brux aroma profile, which is kind of nice. Chilling, carbing, and preparing to drink.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hazelnut. Extra. Special. Bitter.



Looking back at some of my recent blog posts, it appears the last time I brewed was late February, about a 2 month hiatus from homebrewing! That's a lot for me, but I've been busy. I was working 6 days a week for a while, brewing and cellaring for Alameda and Cascade, and believe me, when you do that, the last thing you want to do is spend your only day off huddling over a propane burner in a cold garage while it's raining outside.

Before I get on to posting a recipe, I should get this out of the way: This month, I made the full transition to brewing full-time for Cascade Brewing. It's a bittersweet change for me, because I have really loved my time brewing for Alameda. Working with Carston, Eric, and the rest of the crew has been great, and it will always have a special place in my heart as my first job as a professional brewer. But as a 3/4 time employee, and with Cascade offering a full-time position, I had on opportunity that I just couldn't pass up. I am very excited to work with the Cascade crew, and learn in a production environment that regularly works with barrel-aged sour beers. I feel this will really make me into a strong and confident brewer who is ready to start their own brewery some day in the not-too-distant future.

This recipe that I'm about to post comes about from a few influences: First, I think I will be concentrating more on making 10 gallon batches, less frequently, of beers that are more sessionable in nature. I'm not painting myself into a corner on that one, but I feel like this is more the kind of beer I want to have on tap. I'm not into bottling or creating a lot of extra work for myself, and I can still play with variations on batches after the primary fermentation is complete. Second: I found what I think will be a really cool product that may be available to homebrewers soon. It's a hazelnut product, and I actually want to keep the nature of the product a bit of a secret for now while I am playing with methods of infusing the beer, but rest assured, it's not a bottle of hazelnut extract. It's real nuts. Of course, the problem with nuts is mainly the fact that they have a high oil content, which destroys beer head and can have an effect on flavor and mouthfeel too. This product should provide a way around the oil content problem.

So, half of this batch of a slightly maltier/less hoppy E.S.B. will get a hazelnut infusion post-fermentation, and I will reveal the product & process, whether it works well or not, when I post a recipe tasting in about a month. Since it's something that I think has potential on a pro level, it's important that I try a process that will work on a pro scale. It can't be something that, say, clogs up or detroys a heat exchanger with hazelnut bits, or requires 25 gallons of vodka to extract the flavor and aroma.

This recipe is truly based off what I already had on hand, and I wouldn't necessarily formulate a recipe for an E.S.B. like this if I were to buy everything at a homebrew shop. It's a new yeast for me too, I don't think I have used the Wyeast 1968 (Fuller's) yeast since my early days of homebrewing, if ever. Anyway, enough blabbering, here's the recipe.

Base Beer: Extra Special Bitter
Brewed on 4/20/11
12.9 gallons pre-boil, 11.6 gallons post-boil
O.G. 1.051 F.G. 1.016 ABV 4.7% IBU's 30

7.5 lb. Hugh Baird Marris Otter malt
6 lb. Great Western 2-row organic pale malt
3 lb. Crisp Crystal 35
1 lb. Munich
.5 lb. Aromatic
.25 lb. Pale chocolate

35 gr. Perle pellets 8.5% AA 60 min
24 gr. Perle pellets 8.5% AA 15 min
18 gr. Northern Brewer pellets 7.8% AA 15 min
14 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.4% AA 15 min
56 gr. Styrian Goldings pellets 3.4% AA 0 min

Mash in 5 gallons H2O + 3 tsp "Burton salts", 151 degrees for 60 minutes
Add 2 gallons 200 degree water to bring up to 157
Recirc immediately and sparge with 7.5 gallons H2O + 1 tsp "Burton salts" at 170
Collect 12.9 gallons at 1.046 = 89% efficiency
Boil 65 minutes
Wyeast nutrient and Whirlfloc at 10 min
whirlpool, rest 10 min
chill to 70 with plate chiller over 15 minutes
oxygen 2 minutes
pitch 2.5 liter stirplate starter of Wyeast 1968
Ferment at 68
Clean half was racked straight to keg after primary. For details on the hazelnut process, go here.

Also, I can't remember if I've talked about my new fermenter on the blog yet? Check it out. This was actually an old yeast brink that had been sitting unused at Alameda for quite a while. It's exactly what it looks like: A full-sized keg that has been converted with a corny lid, a gas-in post, liquid-out dip tube, and a manual pressure relief. I cut off the dip tube to leave a gallon of liquid underneath. We'll see how it goes for racking the beer to secondary/keg through the dip tube this time, and if I got the height right to not pull too much yeast through and not leave too much precious beer behind. In the photo, it's sitting in our cold back room with a heating pad strapped on the outside to keep it up to 68 degrees. It's wired in through a Ranco digital thermostat to keep it right at temp.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Tired of beer, time for a big change.


This may come as a bit of a shock for some people, because I haven't really voiced these feelings here before, but I have been grappling with some very odd feelings over the last 6 months or so. I think with this last year of working a lot (sometimes too much) with brewing and going to all these beer events, yadda yadda, that beer is just getting a little...old. There, I said it. It's just like, how many IPA's or imperial stouts or even complex farmhouse ales or sours can you really drink before it all starts to taste the same?

I've been drinking a lot of nice local wines lately, and learning about different varieties, and it's been really refreshing just to taste and learn about something that's not beer for a while! I may get some flack for this, but I have always been one to speak my mind: wine just really is more complex than beer. I realized when we started the Flanders barrel project that I do want to work with barrels, it's just not beer that I want to put in them anymore.

It feels weird. It feels like I am breaking up with a girlfriend of 9 years. Will I even know how to live my life without her? Of course, but it will take a while. It's time to see other people. I'll still see her around at parties from time to time and we will have our awkward conversations, and maybe even be friends some day, but I need some time apart before that can happen.

I have been speaking with a local winemaker, a guy I met during my search for wine barrels, who says he might need some help in the fields this summer. It's a small mom & pop operation in Yamhill. Don't want to give away the name of the winery yet, but I'l fill you in with details when the time is right.

I still wish all you guys the best in your beer brewing adventures. If you're interested in reading a winemaking blog, stay tuned for future posts!
Chin Chin!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Golden Lager Tasting

Here's a tasting of the "Golden Lager" I did brewed quite a few months back.
5.2% ABV, 28 IBU's

Aroma: "Beery" Lager aroma, moderate spicy/herbal hop character, slight malt sweetness, pretty big toasted bread/ graham cracker aroma from Munich malt & melanoidins. Very clean lager fermentation with almost no noticeable esters. Clean alcohol, no diacetyl.

Appearance: Very clear, though obviously not filtered, deep golden color, not a huge head but a well-retained white head that leaves a lacing. Fairly spritzy carbonation, just right for a traditional lager.

Flavor: Big malt flavor up front with a moderate caramel flavor, big toasted bready character, and moderate residual sweetness. Bitterness is moderate with a higher than average hop flavor than most German lagers of its type. Finishes malty but a touch of natural acidity helps dry the aftertaste. Bready malts come through again after the swallow. Fermentation character is very clean, no off flavors and you almost don't notice the alcohol at all.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body with noticeable dextrins give it a creamy texture. Lively bubbles. slight acidity provides more of a thirst-quenching impression
Overall: This beer really fits the bill for a Dortmunder or lighter-colored version of an Oktoberfest. This was a beer that, when younger, definitely had a bit too much finish hop profile going on, that sort of got in the way of the malt complexities. It still does have more than average hop aroma/flavor for a German style lager, but it's much better integrated. The additional lagering time has really helped round this beer out substantially (I use the word "lagering" a bit loosely since it really just sat in a keg at about 38 degrees for a few more months). My main complaint is that the Munich malt comes off as a bit too heavy, or maybe it's coming more from the carahell, but I get a little too much bready flavor in the finish that almost makes it seem earthy or vegetal, if that makes any sense. I would play around with the proportion of specialty malts a bit, perhaps lowering the percentage of both Munich malt and carahell, and adding back a little caramunich for color and residual sweetness. I would also reduce the finishing hops by a half-ounce. I like the yeast, but it also might be fun to play around with a "malty" lager yeast, as opposed to this "clean, dry" version that is admittedly a great workhorse lager strain. If I wanted to perfect this beer though, I would probably start by adjusting the malt and hop bill, and then play with the yeast later once I got that dialed in. Overall it's a very good drinking beer, quaff-able, with the overly bready character being slightly annoying and keeping me from going back for a second pint, but the lager brewing technique is very spot-on and that's what's most important.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wontonamo Bay (batch 2) IPA tasting



Ah, a day off. I don't get enough of these right now, and I'm enjoying it! I haven't left the house or even put on real pants for that matter. I am wearing Clarissa's pajama bottoms because mine are in the wash. But you don't want to know about that...how about a homebrew tasting?


Aroma: Piney, spicy, slightly oily hops, some general citrus/fruit aromatics with a little grapefruit. Fairly dank, with a light caramel malty note, very clean/background malt aroma, no diacetyl, clean fermentation profile with clean alcohol.

Appearance: Very clear, deep copper with moderate carbonation. Wispy white head, but OK retention, would probably persist longer if carbonation were higher. The finings seem to have helped the clarity quite a bit compared to my previous hop-hazed beers (which I really don't mind at all).

Flavor: Full-on hop blast in the first sip, a lot of flavor hops going on here. I get a little onion from the summit, an overall spicy, herbacious and piney flavor, a little grapefruit. Malt is very clean, just a touch of caramel malts let the hops really come forward. Bitterness has calmed a bit since it was first brewed, but it is still has a clean, bitter, slightly woody finish with just a touch of residual sweetness. A little flavor contribution from the Carapils. I swear there is a distinct flavor to beers with Carapils, even though most people would tell you it just adds body. A bit of alcohol at the end, but hey, this is an alcoholic beverage. It's not hot or bitey.

Mouthfeel: Slight slickness or creamyness from some residual sugars, great bubblyness, crisp finish with a little hop astringency.

Overall: I think this beer has really gotten better with a little time, and it's definitely the best IPA I have ever made. But that is compared to a lot of IPA's that just seemed to be too balanced or problematic in other ways. I'm not really sure if I would change anything. I need to drink more of it to find out! It's pairing nicely with my rustic lunch of homemade bread, sharp cheddar and stilton.

In all likelihood, with my current work schedule, I won't be doing any homebrewing for the next month or so. That will be my biggest break since moving out to Oregon. So, until I get some new brews going, I'm going to try to update the blog about once a week with a beer tasting of something that I've already brewed. I hope to get back to homebrewing at least once a month by May, and really just concentrate on brewing 10 gallon batches of lower alcohol, drinkable beers, or doing sours or strong beers that I can brew and forget about for a while.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Temperanillo Barrel Flanders Red

PAUL KEY

I've been wanting to get a group of homebrewers together for a barrel project together for years now, and of course the crucial missing piece of the puzzle was having someone who owned a house with a basement to host the barrel. This all changed when my friend Walker Pruett, who brews for Old Market Pub, bought a house in SE Portland with a big, dry, spacious basement. As soon as I saw it I had to ask if he was interested, and he was very excited to take on the project. I see barrel aging sours as one step above the carboy-aged sours that I have been playing with in the past. There's just something about the wood character, and the microporous environment that really seems to make a difference between a very good sour beer and a great one. My carboy sour beers have been pretty good, but seem to lack the acidity of the best commercial sours. I guess the next step beyond aging homebrew in a barrel is aging homebrew in multiple barrels, so you have blending options, and there may be some potential for that in the future, but for now this will be a great start.

The group consists of myself, Walker, Sean Burke (who is currently at Siebel taking their 6 month American/German learning program), Paul Key, Rik Hall, and Ben Parsons. I pitched the idea of a wine barrel-aged Flanders red for 2 reasons: The first was having tried an incredible pinot barrel-aged Flanders red from Mike Tonsmiere, and the second being that we already had 15 gallons of Flanders brewed that would be a source for souring bugs.

THE BARREL: LAST USED FOR 2009 EVESHAM WOOD TEMPERANILLO, MADE WITH GRAPES FROM ILLAHAE VINYARD, ALSO IN OREGON

I sourced the wine barrel from Eveshem Wood Vinyard, on a recommendation from Paul that they made excellent Pinot Noirs. However there was a bit of a miscommunication, and we ended up with a used Temperanillo barrel from them instead of a Pinot barrel. I think this will be great though; I wasn't too set on the wine varietal, I just wanted to use a barrel that had aged Oregon-grown grapes. The barrel smelled great when we got it and had already been emptied and treated with sulfur a few weeks beforehand, so all we did was give it a couple of cold-water rinses before filling. The barrel was in excellent condition with not even a tiny leak that needed patching.

WALKER PRUETT, TESTING OUR STAINLESS STEEL NAIL FOR SAMPLING

We gathered for filling the barrel at Walker's house on March 4th, the day before my 32nd birthday, and it was a great birthday gift to start a barrel project with such a fun group of talented brewers. We had brewed a total of 60 gallons, which almost topped off the barrel, and we are hoping to brew a "top-off" batch soon to fill the remaining head-space and provide filler for the "angel's share" which will evaporate off through the wood (or be diminished by taste tests!) in the coming months or years. Currently there is about a 4-inch head-space in the barrel which I would like to eliminate sooner than later, to keep any acetic acid producing bacteria from turning this into the world's biggest batch of homebrewed malt vinegar. That would take a lot of pommes frites to soak up!

RIK HALL


A LITTLE FUNK-PELLICLE ALREADY?


OUR "BARREL RACK", EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE NOT GREAT CARPENTERS, WAS MADE OUT OF AN OLD PALLET.


JOLLY PUMPKIN AND CHEEZ-ITS. YEAH, WE'RE THAT CLASSY.

BEN PARSONS

ADDING SOME COMMERCIAL FUNK

Here is what has gone into the barrel so far:
- 5 gallons of month-old "Jamil Zainacheff" Flanders Red, brewed by Sean Burke and fermented with the Roselaire strain from primary
- 10 gallons of a year-old Flanders red that Paul and I brewed using Al B (now East Coast Yeast)'s "Rodenbug" blend. This was tasting very good at one year, but my batch had definitely soured more than Paul's, I think because my batch was aged at room temp while his was aged at basement temp.
- 45 gallons of new Flanders wort based on the Wild Ales recipe, average O.G. /F.G. of 1.064/ 1.022, 12-15 IBU's, fermented with clean ale yeasts
- Dregs from 2 750 ml bottles of Jolly Pumpkin ales, 1 375 ml bottle of Russian River Supplication, 1 375 ml bottle of Russian River Sanctification (more dregs to follow, almost definitely including Cantillon / Drie Fonteinen).

The plan is to get together every 3 months or so to taste what's going on in the barrel. When we rack out, we will probably just let people collect their portion in carboys or kegs to do as they please, either adding fruit, or blending it with other batches, or serving it straight-up. We have also talked about turning this into a single-barrel "solera" project, racking out only half the beer when it's ready and adding something new. Who knows, maybe we will add one more barrel to Walker's basement too. In any case, I hope the beer turns out great (I think it will at least turn out very good), and it will be a great learning experience no matter what. I can't wait to see how it develops in the coming year!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rest In Peace - Chick Chick Chick: 2009-2011

Our little kitty passed away on Valentine's day, and we are really very sad. She was hit by a car and it looks like she went instantly, so at least she didn't suffer too much. We had to bury the poor little thing in the yard, and we only had her for one year. I wish we had had a way to keep her out of that busy street, but I don't think cats should be held hostage indoors. She was such a friendly, playful outdoor cat, hanging out in the neighbors' yards and even sneaking in their houses sometimes. She would hang out with me in the garage while I was brewing and beg to be petted or played with, which was annoying because I didn't want to get a bunch of cat hair in the sanitizer. My point is that we knew the busy road was a risk, but I believe cats should be allowed outdoors. It's just part of their nature to play outside and have adventures. So I guess we need to figure out some kind of invisible fence for the next cat if we decide to have one here, or we could just wait until we live somewhere farther off from a busy street. Damn, life sucks sometimes. I will miss her so much, she was really a great cat and she gave us a lot of joy. The house feels lonely today without her around.


Anyway, I haven't posted any brewing stuff here lately because I've been really busy, in a good way. I have brewed 2 beers: a Belgian Dubbel that I'm planning on splitting some off of and doing some experimentation with (adding quince), and I also brewed a 10 gallon batch of Flanders red that is destined for a wine barrel. I have been wanting to do a barrel-aged sour ale for a while now, and my friend Walker offered up his basement to host the project. We have 6 brewers who are in on the project, the beers are brewed, and now we need to pick up a barrel. So I'll post these recipes later when the dubbel is on tap and when the barrel is full.

Other than that, the reason I really haven't posted is I've been working 6 days a week. I'm still brewing at Alameda 4 days, and I also picked up a couple days at Cascade Brewing, which so far has been a lot of keg washing and filling, but it should be a lot of fun as we get to the more interesting things like working with barrels and all the other fun beers that they do.

So, with this much work I think I'll be slowing down on homebrewing a bit, maybe brewing once a month or something like that. I'll try to keep this blog updated, but if I really end up working my butt off, it might become fairly sporadic. Time will tell... I have decided I really want to keep this blog mainly about homebrewing and leave the pro brewing stuff at work mostly.

Anyway, happy brewing to you all. I'll try to catch up on a few tastings soon. I have the rauchbier that is tasting really nice and I need to go back and do a tasting of the gold lager, and the recently kegged IPA. Catch ya soon.