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 -
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

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 -

-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

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

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.

Created with BeerSmith 2 -