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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

Lallemand – Belle Saison

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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

First Tasting: 3th Generation Barrel Sour

It’s been a while since I’ve actually written anything, partially due to work travel and partially due to just general laziness, but I’m back. This beer is the third iteration of sour beer to come out of my sour barrel. The barrel itself is surprisingly going strong and it’s up to six generations of sour beer production. If you include the first two clean beers you’re looking at 8 uses, which is pretty good for a $70 barrel that I got almost 3 years ago. I really don’t do much to keep it going other than leaving it empty for no more than a day. As long as it’s full there is less risk of acetobacter and the barrel drying out and splitting. The one problem that I have with it is that it sours beers very quickly. That’s not a bad thing per se but it does require me to brew fairly often to keep it going. The beers that come out of it have a nice house funk character that I can recognize from batch to batch and a lactic acidity rather than a pedio acidity. 

Appearance: The beer pours a hazy orange-yellow with a small amount of white head that quickly fades. I’m not surprised that the head retention is pour since the beer is not truly carbonated and sour beers usually have pour head retention since the Brett usually eats any protein structure given by any wheat I use. 

Aroma: There is surprisingly still a hint of barrel character that comes across as oak. Light funk and some citrus notes. The acidity is apparent and there is a touch of vinegar as well. I remember the volume of this beer being too low and I never topped it up so I’m not shocked by the vinegar character. 

Flavor: Sharp acidity up front and a light acetic character on the finish with citrus notes and funk in between. Oddly compared to the aroma the funk is much stronger in the flavor. 

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, dry finish with some sharp acidity. I’m hoping the carbonation will pick up, but I’m worried with the increased carbonation that the acidity will become even more apparent. 

Overall: I think the acidity is a little sharp, which is probably due to the beer being in the barrel for too long. I try to pull them out a lot quicker than I have, but doing so requires me to have time to brew and refill it. I’m disappointed in the carbonation. I didn’t add any fresh yeast to increase the speed of the carbonation. I’ve done this in the past and the beer eventually carbonates usually, but it takes a while. Due to this I think I’m going to go back to using Champagne yeast to carbonate my sours. I like that its carbonated quicker and it also guarantees that the beer will carbonate because the yeast is fresh, rather than relying on old yeast.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

First Tasting: Plum Sour

This was a beer that has been nearly 3 years in the making. It started out as a reddish colored Saison that was fermented with Fantôme dregs. Although it was not supposed to, it quickly soured and was placed aside for extended aging. Out of the ten gallons, half of it was ready to have fruit added after only 11 months, but this half took longer to turn the corner. I decided to add plums to the second half after trying Tilquin Quetsche, a lambic refermented with plums. Unfortunately when the beer was ready it was past the season for me to be able to use the plums on the tree in my backyard (also the tree only produced 3 plums so it wouldn’t have worked anyway).

Appearance:  the beer pours a murky reddish-brown with a tan head with low to moderate retention. The reviews that I got from ACCF said the beer poured clear, probably because I left them to sit upright for a month before as opposed to throwing it in my fridge a few days before. 

Aroma: I get a general fruitiness in the aroma, mostly berry or stonefruit, but it’s hard to discern plums. A touch of caramel and acidity. Surprisingly I don’t get any acetic acid in the nose, especially with the extended aging. The fact that I left it in its primary fermentation vessel probably helped prevent any oxidation over time. Plums don’t have a distinctive aroma, which didn’t help me in the competition. 

Flavor: Lactic acid upfront, a touch of acetic acid, some stone fruit flavor, and a bit of caramel. Just like in the aroma the plum is not really discernible over any general fruitiness. I think most of the flavor in a plum comes from the skin, whereas the meat of the plum is mostly sugar. Since I have tried the beer before and after the addition of the plums I can tell the difference, but if you didn’t know there were plums in it you probably wouldn’t be able to guess. 

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation with a surprisingly full body for the dry lingering acidic finish. I would like the carbonation to pick up more and hopefully with time it will. There is more then when I first bottled, but not as high as it should be for the style or my preference. I probably should have added fresh champagne yeast at bottling, but I chose not too because the yeast was still alive and picked up when I added the plums.
Overall: The scores that I received from ACCF averaged 29.5 with most of the negative comments coming from the fact that you couldn’t really tell there was plum in the beer. Since I entered it under fruit lambic it should have been more prominent. I don’t really think there is too much you can do to add plum flavor other than may be more plums. If I were to do another plum sour I would probably go with a pale base beer. I think the darker base, while adding complexity, covers up some of the more subtle plum flavors. I can’t really complain too much since I basically considered these beers a loss and was prepared to dump them. In the end I ended up with a drinkable plum beer and a blackberry beer that helped me receive honorable mention for funkiest of show.