Wednesday, November 18, 2015

First Tasting: Lavender Coffee Porter

This beer was two batches in the making. After the first batch was accidently infected I had to dump it because I didn’t want 5 gallons of slightly tart porter. After I dumped it I immediately rebrewed it out of determination to have it the way I want it. This time I sanitized the crap out of my carboy to make sure there were no signs of life. First I filled it with water and added bleach. I let it sit overnight and then dumped it and rinsed it in the morning. After that I filled it up with Starsan to kill anything that might still be alive. I’m happy to report that it was successful. 

The beer that is in the keg is only a coffee porter, obviously I intended for this to be a coffee lavender porter. I tried to think of ways to add lavender to parts of the beer, but not the whole batch due to fear of it turning soapy. Initially I was going to make a tincture using vodka and lavender, but I was lazy and it would take longer while it extracts the lavender. While I was buying a gift for my father’s birthday, I stumbled upon some lavender extract. I was careful to add the lavender one drop at a time to my glass so that I could find the limit when it became too powerful. I determined 4-5 drops of lavender extract was the right amount for a noticeable lavender aroma without it being soapy and over powering the coffee.  

Appearance: Pours a dark black with hints of brownish-red on the sides when the light shines through it, all topped off with a thin tan head, decent head retention. When you hold it up to the light with a thinner glass you can see that there is a slight haze. 

Aroma: Upfront you can get the lavender, which comes across as fruitiness, as the beer sits and warms up the coffee become more apparent. There is a strong coffee aroma with some dark chocolate and roasty notes. 

Taste: Dark berry flavors with dark chocolate, mocha and coffee flavors. I’m guessing the berry flavors are from the lavender since they are not there without the extract.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with low-medium carbonation and a slightly bitter finish. The bitterness keeps it from becoming sweet. The body is nice, yet still drinkable. 

Overall: I think the coffee profile came out really well and I’m pleased with the body. I definitely think going with the lavender extract was a good choice, because I can add it if I want and I can control the amount I add. At low quantities it seems fruity, whereas, if you go over that limit it smells like soap.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

First Tasting: Dry hopped sour

I just realized the other day that I never actually wrote a review for this beer. At first it was very hit or miss from bottle to bottle. Some had a great tropical fruit nose and others were slightly acetic with ethyl acetone. I am happy to report that is no longer the case. The last few bottles I’ve had were all tropical and venous. This beer started off as late hopped wort (no hops added before flame out) and it was then used to blend with a saison and dry hopped with more Nelson hops. I’ve read that when dry-hopping with sour beers the character of the hops can be different than with clean beer. I’ve also read that time can cause the hops to go through swings in aroma while brett has its way with the esters. I’m guessing that is what was happening in the beginning and it’s finally rounded a corner to what I was hoping it would end up. 

Appearance: Pours a hazy orange with a rocky white head that lingers and clings to the side of the glass. Very effervescent looking. 

Aroma: Lots of citrus fruit, lime, passionfruit, and white wine. I’m pretty happy that the Nelson came across as the elusive white wine aroma instead of cat piss. There is a touch of barrel and funk coming through. I’m really pleased with the aroma. 

Flavor: White wine, citrus, and lactic acid. The acid is more towards the lactobacillus side of acidity instead of the pediococcus side, which keeps it light and refreshing.  No bitterness from the hops. 

Mouthfeel: Very high carbonation, with a light body and very dry finish. The acidity is not long lasting, but there is a hit of tannin on the back end. 

Overall: Now that it’s finally leveled off I’m very pleased with the way this beer turned out. It’s refreshing and tart with a nice blend of white wine and tropical fruit. Using dry hops with sour beer is something I’d like to try more in the future, possibility with a single hop to get a feel for how the hop will work with brett and acidity or with some type of blend that has worked well in an IPA.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

First Tasting: 1056 vs Brett Blend APA

I’m a little bit late on my review for these beers. The keg for my Tasty APA kicked a few weeks ago, but my Brett keg is still going strong. I documented the differences in fermentation temperatures and dry hopping, which means this isn’t a complete comparison between yeast, but an approximation. Normally I would ferment Brett under temperature control, because if it’s too hot it will produce a lot of phenolic flavors. The problem was that I didn’t have room in my chest freezer so I tried to do the best I could to keep it cool using an ice bath. 

Wicked Weed Brett Blend

Wyeast 1056
Aside from the differences in off flavors produced due to fermentation there are some noticeable differences in the beers due to the characteristics of the yeast strains selected. The Brett version finished much dryer than the 1056 version and there were some noticeable differences in appearance.
I entered the APA into Dixie Cup XXII in Houston and it received an average score of 36. I always find it interesting reading the judges’ comments, because everyone’s pallet is different you’re going to get a different description of your beer, but sometimes they are very different from each other. 

1056: Pours a hazy pale yellow with slightly orange hues topped off with a creamy looking white head with good retention. The head clings to the side of the glass as it fades. The haze does clean up as the beer warms up, which means it was only chill haze. 

Brett:  Pours a hazy pale yellow with orange hues and a creamy white head with good retention. The head clings to the side of the glass as well. The difference is that the beer never clears out. Brett is a notoriously bad flocculater, probably due to the fact that it has never really gone through selective pressure for its appearance and clarity.  

1056: Citrus hop aroma with a touch of bready malt and grassy notes. 

Brett: Slight citrus notes with a lot of black pepper and funky cheese notes. I rarely get any funk from Brett as a primary strain, I’m wondering if it was due to one of the selected strains or if it was due to the high fermentation temperature. 

1056: Bready malt flavor with a tangy citrus hop character. Higher than I would have preferred bitter finish that lingers a little while, but clears up to a malty finish in the end. 

Brett: No malt in sight, black pepper and grassy notes with a long lingering bitter finish. This beer finished at 1.006 as opposed to 1.012, which made the bitterness much more apparent. I think this shows how important final gravity is for balance in a beer since both beers were hopped the same amount. 

1056: Low to medium body with moderate-high carbonation and a dry hoppy finish. The bittering lingers, but not enough to overwhelm the pallet. 

Brett: Light body with medium-high carbonation and a crisp very dry finish with a long lingering bitterness. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how the 1056 version of this beer came out. I would lower the bitterness probably by moving the hop addition to 45 minutes or decrease the amount of hoping to 0.75 ounces of hops. I think the bitterness was a little too much for the style. I was brewing someone else’s recipe so I wanted to be true to it so I could get an idea of the beer before I made any changes. I like the base malt recipe but I personally would use different flavor and dry hops. As far as the Brett version: temperature control is the first thing I would change. Without controlling temperature during fermentation, I’m not able to really comment on the way this Brett blend ferments, except for the way Wicked Weed used it. I chose this blend because I really enjoyed their beer and I still think it can make a good beer, it just needs to be treated correctly. I would also probably brew it separately from anything using Sacc because the base grain recipe will need adjustments. I would definitely add some flaked oats to increase the body of the beer and lower the initial hopping since it will finish dry and Brett doesn’t produce glycerol, which increases mouthfeel.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lavender and Coffee Porter

The beer that I drink is usually determined by the seasons, but luckily as a home brewer I’m able to avoid seasonal creep (Oktoberfest beers in July). Now that it’s “fall” in Texas I’m starting to want something that’s a little darker, however, since its fall in Texas it’s still in the 90s. Something like breakfast stout is too much for the weather currently, but it will start to cool off eventually, which makes porter perfect. The only real thing that differentiates porters from stouts is the lack of roasted malt, but they are generally considered to be a little dryer and less astringent. For my porter I’m planning on something medium bodied with chocolate characteristics that I think will work well with the coffee addition. A friend of mine who I’ve brewed with before has been telling me for months that I should do a coffee porter and add lavender to it. I’ve only had a few beers that have used lavender in the past and they were all soapy. It’s a difficult spice to use and you have to tread lightly. My plan is to soak some lavender in vodka and add it at time of bottling. I’ll probably only add the lavender to a gallon or two of beer, since I’m not the biggest fan of lavender, but I always like a challenge and to experiment.

My brew day was surprisingly easy, but it’s times like this that I wish I had a secondary fermentation chamber. Since I use my chest freezer to ferment and serve beer, I can’t use it to drink from for a week or two during fermentation. I just need to borrow a pickup truck to get a second fridge. For the time being, no pale ale for me. The only issue that I encountered was post brewing. My plan was to just pitch the yeast slurry I had in the fridge and not make a starter the night before, assuming there would be a high enough cell count in a thick slurry. I completely forgot that my 1056 slurry was washed twice to remove hop particles so it’s pretty thin. I pitched both jars, but it still took almost 36 hours to see signs of fermentation.

Most of what I did during brewing was based off of my Breakfast Stout Clone including, water adjustment, mash pH, and coffee addition.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 60 mins
Estimated OG: 1.062
Measured OG: 1.059
Measured FG:
SRM: 34o
IBU: 36

Grain Bill
7lbs – Pale 2-row Malt
4lbs – Maris Otter
0.75lbs – Chocolate Malt
1 lbs – Flaked Wheat
0.75lbs – Crystal Malt 80L

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Magnum – 1oz

Mash Schedule
152oF - Single Infusion – 60 minutes

Two jars of Wyeast 1056 slurry from Tasty APA


10/3/15 – Brewed by myself. Added 3 grams of CaCl and 0.5 grams of gypsum to the mash, pH was down to 5.8 so I added 3.5ml of lactic acid to bring it down to 3.6. Added 4.3 grams of CaCl and 0.7 grams of gypsum to the sparge. Collected 7.8 gallons of 1.051 wort. Chilled to about 85oF because I forgot to get ice, added 45 seconds of pure O2 and placed in the chest freezer to chill for a few hours. Temperature set to 64oF

10/5/15 – Fermentation finally started, temperature was raised to 66oF earlier in the day.

10/19/15 - Had to dump the batch. I think during the time it took for fermentation to start some bacteria or wild yeast took off and added acidity. That's the risk you take when you brew with bugs.

10/24/15 - Rebrewed the porter using the same recipe. OG was 1.061, mash pH was 5.59. I pitched rehydrated US-05. Set in chest freezer set to 66F, but I let it naturally raise from 40F over night since my wort temp was 80F. Fermentation was going by the next morning with the beer at 55F.

10/29/15 - Temperature increased to 68F

10/31/15 - Temperature increased to 72F

11/1/15 - Removed from chest freezer and left at ambient temperature in beer room.

11/5/15 - Gravity down to 1.015, no signs of infection, placed in chest freezer at 38F to cold crash.

11/6/15 - Added 3.5 ounces of coffee from Local Coffee in Ann Arbor to the keg.

11/8/15 - Removed coffee from the keg and set carbonation to 25psi to carbonate.

11/10/15 - Lowered to 8 psi for serving. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tasty APA and Brett blend APA

Surprisingly it’s still hot in Texas even though it’s fall, which means there is still time to brew an APA. As much as I like IPAs they are stronger and generally not as thirst quenching as a lower gravity less hoppy beer. I’ve been listening to the Brewing Network for quite some time now and have always thought about brewing some of the brewcasters recipes, but generally end up doing something else. Most of my brewing is taken up with continuing my sour pipeline and keeping my barrel topped up. Finally, however, I had open carboys and a chance to brew something different. This, I figured, would be the perfect time to try out Tasty’s APA recipe, as well as, getting back to brewing 100% Brett fermented beers.

I used to brew 100% Brett fermented beers fairly often and I’ve always been an avid supporter of Brettanomyces as a primary yeast strain, but I’ve slowly over time moved away from using it as a primary yeast. Generally I ferment my Brett beers with a single strain, but this time I had a bottle from Wicked Weed, which I knew contained 4 different Brett strains. I have no idea what strains they are, but I personally think Brett is better when used as a blend rather than a single strain. I feel that single Brett strains are usually pretty straight forward in one way or the other so they need other strains to add complexity. If you look at some of the other yeast providers on the market (ie not Wyeast or White Labs) you’ll find offerings of Brett blends along with single strains. The blends usually contain strains selected because the complement each other and add complexity.

Unfortunately this won’t be a true side-by-side because I didn’t have a way to control the fermentation temperature of the Brett version. I only had room in the chest freezer for the 1056 version that I was thinking about entering competition. Fermentation for 1056 was pretty vigorous and even blew off the airlock in my chest freezer. I was in Austin during that time so I had no idea until I got back. I wasn’t particularly worried since it was still fermenting and would have pushed anything out of the way before it could get to the actual beer. This is where things got a little weird. The Brett version had a 48 hour lag, which doesn’t surprise me because that’s normal for Brett; after a week I thought it had finished or at least slowed to the end of fermentation. I added one ounce of Cascade since I had to use an extra ounce during the boil. I went to get more hops the next day (ended up getting an ounce of Galaxy because they were out of Cascade), but by the time I got back the beer had started to ferment again! This time it was much more vigorous. I let it continue for another week before it looked like it settled down and I took a gravity reading. I’m not really sure what caused it to stall and restart, but it finished pretty dry.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Boil time: 60 mins
Estimated OG: 1.056
Measured OG: 1.061
Measured FG: 1.012 & 1.008
ABV: 5.2% & 5.7%
SRM: 9.2
IBU: 58

Grain Bill
14.5lbs – Pale 2-row Malt
4lbs – Maris Otter
2.5lbs - Pilsner Malt
1 lbs – Flaked Wheat
1 lbs – Acid Malt
0.75lbs – Crystal Malt 40L

Hop Schedule
60 minutes – Warrior – 1oz
60 minutes – Chinook – 0.75oz
10 minutes – Simcoe – 0.5oz
10 minutes – Columbus – 0.5oz
1 minutes – Simcoe – 0.5oz
1 minutes – Centennial – 0.5oz
0 minutes – Cascade – 2oz
5 days dry-hop – Centennial – 0.5oz
5 days dry-hop – Cascade – 1oz
5 days dry-hop – Columbus – 0.5oz

Mash Schedule
152oF - Single Infusion – 60 minutes

1.5L starter of Wyeast 1056
1.5L starter of Wicked Weed Serenity dregs

9/4/15 – Brewed by myself. Added 6 grams of CaCl and 4 grams of Gypsum to the mash along with 8.7 grams of CaCl and 5.8 grams of gypsum to the sparge water. Mash pH came in at 5.33, which is what I was targeting. I decided to try cold sparging this time to see if it made any noticeable difference in efficiency. I figured if it didn’t it would be nice to not heat my sparge water in the future and save the time and propane. I came a little over my target gravity and didn’t really have any room in the kettle to lower the gravity. Instead I just adjusted my hopping in an attempt to keep the IBUs similar. Chilled wort to 65F and aerated the clean half with 45 seconds of O2 placed in the chest freezer at 65F. Fermentation kicked off later that night for the clean version. 

9/6/15 – Fermentation for the Brett version kicked off

9/7/15 – Increased the temperature to 68F.

9/9/15 – increased temperature to 72F to finish fermentation. 

9/9/15 – Added dry hops to the clean half at the tail end of fermentation. 

9/10/15 – Added dry hops to Brett version

9/11/15 – Fermentation restarted for the Brett version. 

9/14/15 – Kegged the clean version and set psi to 14, gravity down to 1.012

9/16/15 – Kegged the Brett version and set psi to 14, gravity down to 1.008