Wednesday, February 10, 2016

First Tasting: Breakfast Stout 3rd and 4th attempt

Although I like brewing different beers and trying different brewing techniques, I still feel your skill as a brewer on the technical side comes from your ability to replicate past batches. In the past I’ve attempted to rebrew a few different things with varying degrees of success. I fell I did a better job this time; however, there were some issues. The first batch showed signs of infection so I decided to brew the beer again a week later. I’m amazed how each beer turned out considering the problems I had with each of them.  That being said, it makes me respect professional brewers even more with their ability to brew the same beer over and over, while maintaining the same flavor. 

Version 1

Appearance: Pitch black with a hint of brown around the edges with light shining through, topped with a dark tan head with moderate retention.

Aroma:  Roasted and burnt aromas and coffee. Not much chocolate or hop aroma. I’m guessing the burnt notes came from the fact that I used dark roasted coffee, instead of my usual light roasted coffee.

Flavor: Burnt roasted grains, coffee and dark chocolate with a slightly high bitterness. I would honestly prefer a little residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Creamy full bodied with medium-high carbonation and a burnt astringent finish. I should lower the carbonation, which isn’t a big deal. I like the mouthfeel, even though it finished dryer than I prefer, however I don’t like the bitter burnt finish.

Overall: I don’t know how much the possible Brett infection made a difference, but I can say there are differences from the other batch. There are no apparent off flavors from Brett, but there are other issues, such as the burnt flavor and astringency.

Version 2

Appearance: Pitch black with a hint of brown around the edges with light shining through, topped with a dark tan head with moderate-poor retention. My guess is that the coffee or chocolate is the cause for the head retention issues. I might through in some Cara malt or Wheat to improve it next time.

Aroma: Mocha, coffee, dark chocolate, caramel , and a hint of roast. I’m happy with the aroma, however, I might want more coffee. The coffee that I used was a different origin from the last time I used Intelligentsia coffee.  

Flavor: Dark chocolate, coffee, roast, a hint of astringency and medium high bitterness. Clean fermentation profile, no detectable off flavors other than the astringency, which could have come from the coffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, maybe a touch too high, medium to light body, definitely too thin, with a dryish slightly astringent finish. The mouthfeel is probably my least favorite part of this beer.

Overall: It’s not that this is a bad beer, but it’s not as good as the last time I brewed it. It’s lacking the same full bodied mouthfeel, which could have come from my mash temperature; however, I used the same temperature as last year. Compared to other times when I try to rebrew a beer, this one did turn out better than in the past. Its close, but it could be better.  I will say though, with its lighter body and higher carbonation, it’s dangerously drinkable for 9% ABV.

Between the two, I wonder what it would be like if I had added the coffee at the same time and used the same coffee. On the flip side, I can see some differences between the two, from just those issues, since I can’t see much of a problem with Brett. I know it’s there, because I could see it during fermentation, but I’ve been able to keep it cold, which probably minimizes any affects.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blending "Gueuze" at home

Every December, for the last 3 years, over my winter break from work I brew a psudo-lambic. My goal has been to build up a stock so that I could eventually blend my own “gueuze.” Obviously it’s not lambic or gueuze since I’m not in Belgium, use a turbid mash, and I don’t spontaneously ferment. I do, however, attempt to use a similar grain bill, aged hops, and bugs from commercial spontaneously fermented beers. I honestly had really low expectation for this since having a beer sit on its yeast cake for 3 years is a little disconcerting. 

This year happened to 3 years since I started doing this, which means I now have enough beer to blend 3 years. I invited some friends over to assist with the blending. Prior to blending I measured the final gravity and pH of each beer. In addition to three years of the same beer I also included a separate saison that unintentionally soured and a clean saison. My goal was to come up with multiple blends on top of “gueuze.” The remarkable thing that I noticed was that the beers all had a very similar final gravity and pH, regardless of initial starting gravity, however, they all had varying levels of apparent acidity.  

*Calculator from
1)      Unintentional sour Saison – Used Hill Farmstead Anna dregs
2)      One year old sour – Tilquin and 3F dregs
3)      Two year old sour – ECY20
4)      Three year old sour – Cantillon CuveĆ© de Champions dregs
5)      Plain Saison

For the blending session I pulled about a pint of each beer and we began by tasting each component on its own and writing down tasting notes. I did not use a scale or measuring cup for doing the actual blending. We used my pipette as our approximate measurement and measured everything in parts. The first blend we worked on was the ‘gueuze,’ mostly because I figured it would be the most challenging. It was interesting to see what flavor and aroma components would become apparent when blended and what would disappear. The final blend we decided on was 2 parts #2, ½ part #3 and ½ part #4. I was happy to see that the best blend ended up being a combination of all three years of beer. #4 was the hardest beer to drink on its own; however, without that component in the final blend it lacked a rustic complexity. In my opinion, I feel that blending is the only way to get the levels of complexity of Gueuze. Souring beers contains many variables so the same wort, even from the same batch can and will probably end up tasting different. Blending allows you to pick and choose the components you want. 

I blended about 4 gallons of “gueuze” and added priming sugar and champagne yeast. Traditionally, blenders will not add priming sugar or fresh yeast, but instead use the young lambic to provide fresh yeast and fermentable sugars for carbonation. Since I’m not making an exact gueuze, I don’t feel the need to adhere to traditional methods and wanted to guarantee that it will carbonate. After the first blend I still had beer plenty of beer left over. The following are the other blends (all blends are listing in parts):

All beers were primed with sugar and had champagne yeast added for carbonation, with exception of the raspberry beer because it was not bottled. For the white wine, I went with a New Zealand due to its tropical fruit nature. I blended it to taste at the time of bottling by pouring it into the bottling bucket and smelling it. I had about 1.5 gallons of beer number two at the end of everything so I decided it would be a good idea to add it to 3 ghost peppers. Time will tell if that was a good idea or not.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Breakfast Stout Clone 2 ways

I wanted to rebrew one of my favorite beers I’ve brewed to date over my winter break. I’ve brewed this beer a few times and the last time I felt it was almost perfect. It even won a bronze medal at Bluebonnet Brew-off last year. I figured it should be pretty easy since I’ve brewed it with success in the past: famous last words. This post will contain two different process because the first time I skipped a step and the beer was contaminated and the second time I had other problems. 

The first batch didn’t start off well from the very beginning. I made a starter for my yeast, which apparently was very fresh and resulted in a blow over on my stir plate. This had me worried for potential contamination and by looking at I could tell something was wrong. I made the mistake of not replacing the yeast and rolling the dice, hoping it would be fine. It wasn’t until the end of fermentation that I could tell something was off. The beer finished drier than I wanted and there were some funky notes. Rather than dump the whole batch because it was drinkable, just slightly off I decided to add a different coffee that I have and brew the beer again, while taking extra care to prevent contamination. On top of that I forgot to add part of the chocolate during the mash, so I added it all at the end of the boil (and for some reason I used 2 ounces instead of 2.5 ounces…and no I wasn’t drinking during brewing). 

Batch two started off the same way. I made a starter, but became concerned with the look of it. This time I decided to not risk my beer and bought some US-05, since I had to go to the homebrew store and get extra grain anyway. Looking at my starter, which has been sitting there for over a week, I think it would have been fine. There doesn’t seem to be an infection like I feared. I boiled my flask and sanitized with Starsan prior to adding the starter media, so an infection seemed unlikely. Back to brewing, the first batch and this batch experienced the same problem; both were under my target pre-boil gravity by about a full 10 points. I added DME the first time to correct and this time I extended my boil. Shockingly each time at the end of my boil my final gravity was almost 10 points too high! Something is off with my system, calculations or measurements. I need to figure out what my problem is next time I brew. On top of this problem, I ran out of propane 30 minutes into my boil. Thankfully I wasn’t going to add hops until 60 minutes and I was planning on extending my boil to condense sugars. I covered the pot and ran to get propane. I started from that point and boiled an extra 15 minutes, then added the hops. I checked the gravity with about 10 minutes left and discovered it was well over my target so I started filling up water need to lower the gravity and added it to the wort with about 5 minutes left. During all of this commotion, I forgot to add the last 0.25 ounces of hops. 

It seemed the world did not want me to make these beers, but now I have 10 gallons. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est Original Gravity: 1.084
Measured Original Gravity: 1.086 (Batch 1), 1.084 (Batch 2)
Measured Final Gravity: 1.017 (Batch 1)
SRM: 65o
IBU: 63
Grain Bill

15lbs Pale Malt
0.25lbs Black Patent
1.25lbs Chocolate Malt
2lbs Flaked Oats
0.75lbs Crystal 120L
0.25lbs Roasted Barley

Hop Schedule
60 minutes - Magnum – 2 ounce
30 minutes - Willamette – 0.25
15 minutes – Cocoa powder – 1 ounce
0 minutes - Willamette – 0.25 

Mash Schedule
151oF single infusion for 60 minutes – one ounce of cocoa powder added at 15 minutes

1.5L starter of WLP001 (batch 1) and 2 packets of hydrated US-05 (batch 2)

12/28/15 – Brewed by myself. Mashed in at 145F so I added some boiling water to bring it up to 151F. Added 3 grams CaCl and 1 gram gypsum to the mash along with 6ml of lactic acid. Mash pH was measured at 5.52. Cooled down to 80F and oxygenated with 90 seconds of pure O2 and placed in my chest freezer at 62F. 

12/29/15 – Fermentation has started. 

1/4/16 – Temperature increased to 70F to finish out fermentation. 

1/8/16 – Cold crashed for two days and added 3.5 ounces of Ruta Maya medium roast coffee.

1/9/16 – Coffee removed after 36 hours and carbonated to 10 psi

1/6/16 – Rebrewed my myself to attempt a good batch. Same process as the last one, however, I remembered to add 1.5 ounces of chocolate powder at the end of the mash and I added 5 ml of lactic acid. The ph was measured at 5.6 this time. Chilled to 70F and oxygenated with 90 seconds of pure O2, then placed in my downstairs bathroom which was 58F ambient.  Pitched yeast about an hour after. 

1/7/16 – Fermentation started and the temperature remained 58-60F the whole week. 

1/14/16 – Temperature increased to 71F to finish out fermentation.

1/ 16/16 - Cold crashed

1/18/16 - Racked to a keg and added 3.5 ounces of Intelligentsia coffee

1/20/16 - Removed coffee beans and set to carbonate at 25psi until I return from MI

1/30/16 - Measured final pH of each beer. The first batched finished at 5.13 and the second batch at 4.59.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

First tasting: Blueberry Sour

I’m a little late on this review, but with travel and the holidays, which were full of brewing and blending, I just haven’t had time. In my on-going quest to fine new fruits to add to my sours, I landed upon blueberries. Normally I don’t like the idea of blueberries in sour beers, even though beer nerds always lose their mind over them, because blueberries as a fruit don’t have much flavor. Generally they are just tart when young and sweet when they ripen. The main contribution of blueberries comes from the color in their skin. The reason that I chose to go with blueberries is simple: they were on sale and I had beer ready. 

Appearance:  Pours a slightly hazy strikingly blue-purple with a light pink-purple head that fades pretty quickly. As the beer warms up it clears up as well. This is by far the most interesting looking beer that I’ve brewed. 

Aroma: The aroma comes across as honey and mead like with some lactic acidity. No malt or hops present. 

Flavor: Up front it’s mostly a clean sourness, not much berry flavor with a slightly sweet cereal like finish. That should eventually fade with time. 

Mouthfeel: Light body with a dry lactic sour finish. No astringency and clean. Medium-high carbonation. 

Overall: I stand by my beliefs that blueberries don’t add anything meaningful to a beer except for color. If you gave me this beer and I couldn’t see it I would have a hard time telling you that there are blueberries in the beer. If they weren’t so expensive most of the time I think they would be a nice addition to a lightly sour beer to increase the sourness and give an interesting color, however, I would dry hop the final product to give it a more interesting fruity aroma.