Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Tasting: Blended Tart Saison



My favorite Saisons are those that are slightly tart and funky. So far I’ve never really been able to make a beer that is slightly tart. I’ve tried adding bugs at different points during, after or before fermentation and the end result is more sourness than I would have preferred. Since I was planning on doing a dry hopped sour but wanted to cut the acidity a bit I brewed a straight Saison. After I came up with my blending ratio I still had left over sour beer and non-sour beer. I used the left over beer to blend a Saison that I figured would be slightly tart instead of fully sour. 

I had never blended beers before so I really had no idea what I was doing other than tasting different proportions and hoping it would work out. My process involved taking as close to equal amounts of each beer from a two different pitchers using a wine thief and placing them into different glasses. A better way would have been to weigh out the amount of liquid to have a more accurate ratio, but my method worked out. I made 4 different blends: 3 parts sour and one part Saison, half and half, 2 to 1 sour, and 3 to 1 Saison. I evaluated each blend for aroma and flavor and made adjustments if needed. When I decided on my blends I racked from the carboys into a bottling bucket and attempted to hit the same blend ratio on a gallon scale. In the end I ended up with around 5 gallons of dry hopped sour beer, 4 gallons of tart Saison and 1 gallon of Saison that I added cucumber juice to at a later date. 

Appearance: Pours a hazy straw yellow with orange hues and a fluffy white head that fades relativity quickly. I was hoping for better head retention with the higher wheat content, but I think the acidity had its way. The beer does clear up as it warms up to become pretty clear. I’m assuming that the small amount of dry hops I added gave the beer some chill haze. 

Aroma: Rustic barnyard funk and spicy phenolics with notes of lemon zest and lactic acid. I’m really pleased with the aroma. It’s everything I like in a good farmhouse Saison.
Taste: Black pepper and a hint of lemon tartness with a clean spicy base. There is a bit of funk on the finish. 

Mouthfeel: Light body medium-high carbonation with a dry slightly tart finish. I wouldn’t mind some more carbonation but it’s not bad where it’s at currently. There is the possibility of more carbonation in the long run since there is Brett in the beer. 

Overall: I’m very pleased with the results of this beer. It is exactly how I like my Saisons, slightly tart but still containing Saison character with some funk. Light, drinkable, refreshing and still complex. I’m very happy with how the blending came out. I know most home brewers can’t blend beers due to lack of space or time, but I’m probably going to start doing this to all of my Saisons. I normally have lots of sour beer sitting around, however, the only problem I would encounter would be finding time to brew regular Saisons and having carboys available.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sour Barrel Ver. 6 (Oatmeal Sour)



Lately I feel like I’ve only been writing about my failures during brewing. The last few beers have not turned out exactly how I would have preferred. They are not bad, just not what I wanted. I guess it’s not too much of a bad thing to have high standards.  The issues I’ve had have come from my clean beers not from my sours. I need to get around to reviewing two of my fruited sours, which both turned out very well. 

What messed up this time had nothing to do with potential cross contamination, but completely forgetting I was going to brew an 8 gallon batch and not adjusting my base grain accordingly. I swear I know how to brew haha. It’s my attention to detail that lacks. I got up in the morning and went into autopilot mode setting up everything for 5 gallons, water, and grain, everything like normal. I couldn’t figure out why my gravity was coming in low, until I realized that I intended to make 8 gallons instead of 5 gallons, so I went back to check my calculations. I had everything set up for 5 gallons, so I was just under efficient for 5 gallons, but then I realized I also added oats for 8 gallons instead of 5 gallons. In retrospect I decided to add far too many oats for an 8 gallon batch, but it was definitely too much for 5 gallons. I wanted to add some flaked oats like I did for my Bernice clone to give it some softness to the body, but I over did it for sure. 

I plan on using this beer as an experiment. It will be sour because it’s in my barrel, but I’m going to find out what happens if you have a larger portion of flaked oats in your grain bill. I’m talking large like an oatmeal stout amount. I may need to rack it into a carboy so that I can give Brett time without being exposed to as much O2 as my barrel would normally infuse, but I will see when I taste it in the future.  Some of the things I did change from my last few barrel fills was to increase the IBUs a bit to hopefully keep the lacto at bay and allow for a longer and slower fermentation. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 60 mins
Estimated OG: 1.056
Measured OG: 1.048
Measured FG:
ABV:
SRM: 4.7
IBU: 36

Grain Bill
5lbs - Pilsner Malt
3lbs – Pale 2-row Mal
2lbs – Flaked Oats
3lbs – Vienna Malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Magnum – 1oz

Mash Schedule
148oF - Single Infusion – 70 minutes
156 oF – Infusion – 20 minutes

Yeast
Barrel leftovers

Notes:

8/11/15 – Brewed by myself. All issues have been documented above. Added 3 grams of CaCl and 1 gram of Gypsum for pH adjustments. During the boil I racked the previous barrel batch onto 7lbs of fresh blueberries and left all yeast behind and didn’t clean the barrel. 

8/13/15 – Signs of fermentation have started.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Tasting: Bernice Clone Attempt



One of my favorite beers that I was lucky enough to get to try last year was Saison Bernice from Sante Adarius Rustic Ales. I was able to drink practically as much as I wanted from What the Funk?! last year and received a bottle in a trade a few weeks later. Since I already knew how awesome that beer was I immediately knew that I wanted to harvest the dregs to try to use them in a beer. Tim Clifford was nice enough to give out the recipe on Brewing Network’s Sour Hour. Knowing this I figured I might as well at least attempt to make something similar (add try my hand at West Ashley as well). The recipe itself is not very complicated. I believe most of the grain bill is for mouthfeel, body, and color. The real magic is from the yeast and bug culture. 

Appearance: Pours a hazy orange with yellow hues and a thin white head that fades quickly. Oddly enough I bottled in two different bottle sizes. The larger bottles are well carbonated but the smaller bottles are not. 

Aroma: Green apples, stone fruit, peach, pear, with some spicy saison phenols. The most noticeable aroma is green apple. I’m not sure if it’s a “green” beer side effect or a characteristic from the yeast. I would prefer there be less green apple but there is a nice level of complexity with the saison characteristic still making an appearance. I’m curious to see if time will help clean up the apple notes. 

Flavor: Like the aroma green apple is the predominate flavor with hints of pear and spices rounded out with some clean lactic acid. The acidity is definitely lactic, which compliments and brings out the green apple tartness. 

Mouthfeel: The carbonation varies with bottle size. The smaller bottles it’s undercarbonated with a light carbonation and slick creamy mouthfeel. The larger format bottles are medium-high carbonation with a dry lactic finish and medium body. The body is nice considering how dry it finished. I’m not sure why the carbonation level varies like it does since I bottled this as a single batch. 

Overall: I’m pleased with the character of this beer, although there are some things I would change. In the future I would try to add 3711 along with the 3724 the way Sante does for Bernice. I didn’t have any 3711 on hand at the time. I feel it would have added some extra fruity saison character that I don’t get from 3724. Another option would have been to blend back some straight 3711 saison at bottling. This would have helped to cut the acidity, which I also thought was a little high for the beer. As far as the green apple goes, I’m not sure what I could have done to prevent that. My best guess would be this is why Sante uses 3711 along with 3724. 3724 has a tendency to drop out of suspension halfway through fermentation, which could lead acetaldehyde production and it remaining in the beer. 3711 would have remained in suspension and cleaned up any remaining off flavors from fermentation. While the beer did reach full attenuation, it could have been from Brett as opposed to Sac, which is why that flavor was not cleaned up. I guess that gives me an excuse to brew this beer again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First tasting: Grapefruit and Juicy IPA rebrew



The reason that it’s taken me a while to get around to writing a review of these beers is because I’m not particularly happy with them. They are not bad beers by any means, but since the first batch I brewed with this recipe was so good I had high expectations. I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with the beer but there are a few things that I could do to improve the next time. The first time I brewed this beer it was a five gallon batch. This time, however, I decided to brew 10 gallons. I think part of the problem with the taste is that hops extract efficiency is not linear like malt. In other words, I can’t just double my hops like I can malt and expect to get the same result. Another problem is the lack of aroma from the dry hopping. I can’t tell if it’s old hops (which it kind of smells like) or if part of my batch was infected with Brett (also not shocking). The infection was my first thought when I first tried the beer, but now that I’ve cleared out the yeast at the bottom I don’t think that’s the problem. 

(Grapefruit)
(Regular)
The other half of this batch I planned to add grapefruit. I added grapefruit peal along with the dry hops as was recommended by Ballast Point. I took care not to add any of the pith. When it was time to remove the dry hops I was pretty disappointed with the aroma and flavor. To rectify this I added grapefruit juice and some more zest to the keg. This definitely gave me the aroma I was looking for, but I don’t like the grapefruit character in the flavor. It’s prominent like I wanted but the problem is that it’s just the wrong grapefruit in my opinion. In the future I’ll probably add the zest from the same grapefruits as before, but use a different species for flavor. 

Appearance:
Grapefruit: Prior to adding the juice it was brilliantly clear with strong head retention, after the addition it became a hazy pale yellow with orange shades and medium to weak head retention.
Regular: Pale yellow with some chill haze topped off with a white head that fades somewhat quickly. As the beer warms up it becomes brilliantly clear. Conan is known for its poor flocculation, but with the right pH and calcium levels you can get it to drop out like any other yeast. 

Aroma:
Grapefruit: Right of back you get grapefruit aroma, some citrus, and a slightly musty aroma. Luckily the grapefruit overpowers most of the aromas. The grapefruit aroma definitely comes across as a zest rather than the meat of the fruit. There is no malt character at all.
Regular: Some citrus, stone fruit, peach, yeasty, and what I can best describe as a musty stale character. My first inclination was infection when I smelled it, but I’m fairly certain it’s due to old hops. Despite the fact that I bought them from my LHBS a few days before, it has been a year since the harvest. The aroma is not as bright and vibrant as it was last time. I’m not sure if it’s from the hops age, the different scale of the batch, or from my pH being too low. 

Flavor:
Grapefruit: Bitter grapefruit flavor is the predominate sensation. This is where I think a different grapefruit would have benefited the beer. I probably would have used a slightly sweeter fruit next time. I would probably also scale back the juice addition so that the beer is still apparent. It’s not like it taste like straight grapefruit juice, but I think it overwhelms any subtleties of the beer.
Regular: Slight bitterness, some citrus, and peach with a backend finish that I don’t like. This is where the musty flavor descriptor comes in again. This is what made me think infection to begin with, but I really don’t think that’s what it is because it’s not specifically a Brett quality. I’m still leaning towards old hops. 

Mouthfeel:
Grapefruit: Medium body with a slick mouthfeel (probably from the grapefruit juice), carbonation on the high side with a dry lingering better finish.
Regular: Light to medium body with a crisp dry finish and medium-high carbonation. I’m happy with the body on this beer and the finish. Often times I find IPAs to have too much malt character for my liking. 

Overall:
Grapefruit: I’m pleased with the grapefruit aroma and the fact that I could get grapefruit character in the flavor, but I’m not pleased with the flavor from the grapefruit. As I’ve stated, I think it was just the wrong species of grapefruit for the job. Beyond that I do enjoy drinking the beer; I just had higher expectations.
Regular: The parts of this beer that I don’t like I feel like are easy fixes, fresher hops, pH adjustment, and hop extraction adjustment. I’ve never brewed 10 gallons of IPA at once so the hop extraction is something I never really considered, but I know for the future. 

I try to; even if I don’t like the beer that I’ve brewed, write a review just in anyone that reads this wants to brew anything I’ve brewed. For me it’s a way to learn from what I’ve done and remember what I’ve brewed before so I can make changes in the future.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brewing for Blending



Blending is a vital skill in brewing that is often over looked or not possible on the homebrew scale. Professional breweries blend beers in order to create unique flavors that are not possible from a single batch and also to keep a consistent flavor profile.  I’ve been brewing the same “lambic” like beer over the past three years. In the next few months I will be blending them to create a “gueuze.” Blending is something I would like to start to do more often, but it requires me to have beer either sitting around or brew often. 

Since my barrel is starting to create more and more acidic beers I want to have something to blend into it to lower the acidity. If I brew a basic Saison I can use it to cut down the acidity in overly sour wild ale and I can blend back some of the sour beer to increase the complexity in the Saison. The goal of blending is to make each of the components greater together than they would be separate. 

On top of wanting to brew a beer to blend with my last barrel sour, I needed to refill the barrel again. I went with a pretty simple base beer as I normally do for wild ale and for the Saison to let the yeast do their thing. I wanted a simple Saison that wouldn’t take away from the complexities of the dry hopped wild ale and would be equally dry so that it doesn’t add extra fermentable sugars. 

I came in a few points under my target gravity, which is probably because I forgot to add the flaked oats until the end of my vorlauf. I wanted to add the oats because I wanted a little perception of body and smoothness for a beer that will get pretty dry. Other than that it was a pretty easy brew day. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 mins
Estimated OG: 1.054
Measured OG: 1.049
Measured FG: 1.007
ABV: 4.9%
SRM: 4.7
IBU: 23

Grain Bill
16.5lbs - Pilsner Malt
1.5lbs – Flaked Oats
2.5lbs – White Wheat Malt
1.5lbs – Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Magnum – 1oz

Mash Schedule
148oF - Single Infusion – 90 minutes

Yeast
Lallemand – Belle Saison

Notes:
7/3/15 – Brewed by myself. Aside from forgetting to add the oats until forlauf I didn’t have many problems. Added 2 grams of CaCl and 8 grams of Gypsum to the mash along with 3 grams of CaCl and 12 grams of gypsum to the sparge water. Collected 14 gallons of wort at 1.039. Collected 5 gallons to put in my barrel and added the left over Strawberry-Rhubarb Yo Soy Un Berliner yeast to start fermentation. Collected 5 gallons of wort oxygenated with pure O2 for 45 seconds and then pitched dry yeast.

7/4/15 – Fermentation started for each beer.

7/12/15 – Gravity down to 1.007 on the Saison half.  

7/19/15 - Did some blending to find ratios of beer that I felt worked best.  Ended up with around a 1.5 gallons left over that I'll probably add cucumber juice.

7/27/15 - Bottled the sour version with 128 grams of table sugar. Bottled a total of 4.5 gallons.

8/3/15 - Bottled the Saison version with 100 grams of table sugar. Bottled 4 gallons. 

8/5/15 - Added one cup of cucumber juice to the remaining gallon of Saison and bottled with 30 grams of table sugar.  

8/12/15 - Racked off the barrel sour onto 7lbs of blueberries.  

8/26/15 - First tasting of the tart Saison verson.