Friday, July 11, 2014

First Tasting: Barrel Aged Sour

I’m finally getting around to reviewing my first barrel aged sour. This barrel was a used whiskey barrel from Ranger Creek that I used twice to get two clean ales out of it before I soured it. Both batches came out clean with no signs of infection. I decided at this point it was time to sour it since there couldn’t be too much whiskey or barrel character left. 

My fear with this beer was oxidation and acidification due to the low volume to surface area ratio. With a small volume the rate of oxygen transfusion is much higher than it would be with a larger wine barrel. Theoretically this would mean any beer I’m planning on souring in the barrel should not stay in it a traditional amount of time. I knew this going into the beer but then got busy and lazy and left it in the barrel for 14 months. I gave up on this beer long ago and expected it to have turned into vinegar; however, I was pleasantly surprised when I took a tasting of this beer to find out that it drinkable. There was an acetic acid bite, but this was expected, it was however, lower than I had anticipated. 

Currently I have a different beer that I fermented directly in the barrel. I will have to keep better track of the development of this beer. Since there is acetic acid in the first iteration that means there is acetobactor in the barrel. If it gets too bad I will have to dump it. 

Appearance: It pours a slightly hazy deep orange with traces of yellow and virtually no head. Unfortunately the beer has not fully carbonated. I did add a good amount of priming sugar but I don’t believe I added any extra yeast other than a touch of Brett from a different beer. I did notice that a pellicle had formed in the bottle so there is something still alive in the bottles. Maybe with more time they will carbonate a little more.    

Aroma: Sharp acetic acid right up front with a touch of lemon citric acid and some funk in the back end. This is the first sour that I’ve brewed where I get the funk that you would get from a traditional Belgian Lambic. I was speaking with the head brewer at Jester King, Garrett Crowell, a few weeks ago and he was saying he believes that a funk characteristic of Lambics that is often perceived comes from the aged hops. Brett can obviously produce funk, but there is an underlying almost fruity funkiness that I feel, agreeing with Garrett, might come from the hops. 

Taste: Sharp acidity and vinegary notes with a touch of lemon and a backend of funk. As the beer warms up the vinegar becomes a little overwhelming. Surprisingly there is still barrel character and a hint of whiskey still remaining in the beer.  

Mouthfeel: Just a hint of carbonation and a thin body with a dry lingering sharp astringent finish. There is definitely some oak tannin in this beer. I think the carbonation might have helped on the finish to reduce the astringency and the acetic bite on the end. 

Overall: I can’t say that I’m particularly pleased with this beer, but since it was just an experiment to begin with and I gave up on it a long time ago, I’m not unhappy with it. I would definitely say that if you are using a small barrel don’t keep it in the barrel for an extended period. I would honestly suggest using it as a horney tank for beer inoculation and then transfer the beer from the barrel to a carboy for extended aging.

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Chapter IPA

In my usual fashion of wanting to try new brewing processes every time I brew I came up with a way to modify my IPA process. Most breweries use what is called a “hopback” for hopping their IPAs. Sierra Nevada calls it their torpedo system. There are hopbacks available for homebrewers to purchase but their somewhat expensive. The basic idea behind a hopback is that you run the beer across fresh hops after you have chilled it so that the beer is not extracting bitterness. Breweries usually place their hopback after their heat exchanger. Even if I did have a hopback without a pump it would be hard to use unless my system was gravity fed, which it is not. I want to increase the aroma I get from my IPAs but my options are limited to dry hopping and flame out hops. 

After thinking about it I came up with a way to produce, what I hope is a similar effect of a hopback, without having a hopback. Since I have a rather unique way of chilling my wort (filling a corny keg and using CO2 to push it through a jockey box submerged in an ice bath) I thought, why not have the wort go through only one coil in an ice bath to chill it a little and run the wort into a second corny keg filled with hops instead of straight into a carboy? 

After preforming a 30 minute hop stand in the kettle at flame out I racked the beer into a corny and pushed it through one coil that was in an ice bath and the other that was sitting out in the air and into a corny keg which had a bag of hops in it. The wort was chilled to 105oF. I sealed it and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then I pushed the wort back through my jockey box and chilled it the rest of the way into a carboy. Hopefully this extra step of hopping will increase my aroma or at least give it an extra layer of aroma/flavor. 

The only issue that in encountered while brewing was that my efficiency came way under what it normally does because my mash was too acidic. I definitely added too much acid malt. My calculation said it would end up around 5.2pH but I think once I broke through the buffering capacity of my water it dropped pretty rapidly. I’m hoping there will not be any acidity showing through.

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.5 gallons
Boil time: 135 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.071
Measured OG: 1.064
Measured FG: 1.012
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 54

Grain Bill
7lbs Pale Malt
5 lbs Pilsner Malt
1 lb Acid Malt
1.5 lbs Vienna Malt
0.5 lbs Table Sugar

Hop Schedule
40 min – Nugget – 1.75oz – Pellet
30 min - Whirlpool – Galaxy – 1oz – Pellet
30 min - Whirlpool – Citra – 0.5oz - Pellet
30 min - Whirlpool – Mosaic – 1.5oz - Pellet
30 min - Hopback – Galaxy – 1.5oz – Pellet
30 min - Hopback – Mosaic – 0.5oz – Pellet
30 min - Hopback – Citra – 1.5oz – Pellet
30 min - Hopback – Columbus – 0.5oz – Pellet
3 days – Dry Hop – Citra – 1oz – Pellet
3 days – Dry Hop – Mosaic – 1oz – Pellet
3 days – Dry Hop – Galaxy – 1oz – Pellet
3 days – Dry Hop – Columbus – 0.75oz – Pellet

1.5L starter of Conan yeast

Mash Schedule
60 minute Saccrification rest at 150oF, infused 2 gallons of boiling water to bring temperature to 167oF

6/15/14 – Brewed by myself. Mash pH reading was at 4.91, which is 0.3 below where I wanted it. Oddly the boil pH came in at 4.93 at the end, which is where I want it so I’m not really sure. I might need to recalibrate my pH meter. Added 6 grams of gypsum and 3 grams of CaCl to the mash. Ended up with 8.5 gallons of wort so I extended the boil to increase the gravity and lower the volume.

Chilled to 75oF and placed in the chest freezer to bring it down a little bit more. Pitch yeast 6 hours later. Temperature set to 64oF

6/16/14 – Signs of fermentation 18 hours after pitching. 

6/17/14 – Temperature increased to 66oF

6/18/14 – Temperature increased to 68oF

6/21/14 - Temperature increased to 73oF

6/23/14 - Racked to a keg and dry hopped.

6/27/14 - Turns out the yeast had stalled and racking it brought the yeast back into suspension and it has continued fermenting. I will continue to blow off pressure from the keg as often as I can. Easily the biggest mess I've created inside doing brewing stuff.

7/4/14 - Placed back into the chest freezer to cold crash

7/10/14 - Racked to a keg and pressurized to 14psi


Thursday, June 12, 2014

First Tasting: Hell Camino

I will admit that I first thought of the name for this beer before I even brewed it, normally it’s the other way around for me. As soon as I thought of the name I then had to brew the beer. I wanted to brew something for the warmer months and I’ve wanted to try my hand and brewing a lager for the first time.  I also thought that a Helles would be a good first lager since its maltier then a Pilsner, however; it’s not as malty as a Bock and on the lower end of the alcohol spectrum. 

I figured I would go all in on my first lager and do a double decoction, because why not? Did it make a difference I have no idea. If you ask a German they will say it matters but if you do a side by side with a single infusion you may not see a difference. The only problem that I discovered with lager brewing, and didn’t really consider, is that it takes my chest freezer out of commission. I can still have kegs in it but if they run out or get low I can’t brew another beer because I can’t raise the temperature for ale fermentation while its lagering. That means I can only brew Saions while lagering, until I can get a separate lagering refrigerator. Now on to the review

Appearance: Pours a slightly hazy orangish yellow with a thick fluffy white head that slowly lingers and fades to a thin lacing over the top of the beer and clings to the sides of the glass. I’m definitely disappointed on the clarity but if I really cared about it I could add some fining agents. 

Aroma: I don’t get any sulfur and maybe just a touch of diacetyl. Although I’m wondering if the diacetyl that I perceive is because I’m looking for it and expecting some to be there since it was my first lager. I need to bring this beer to homebrew club for some non-biased reviews. Other than that the aroma is slightly grainy with a touch of spicy hops on the nose. Malty and caramel sweetness are provided by the grains. 

Flavor: I feel like there is a touch of diacetyl in the flavor of the beer but it’s small if anything, but I do think I can detect it more in the flavor then in the aroma. I wouldn’t say it’s a negative, just there. The flavor is similar to the aroma, grainy and slightly sweet with very little bitterness.   

Mouthfeel: Light body with medium high carbonation and a dry finish with a touch of caramel on the back end. Very easy to drink and easy to enjoy a few pours in one sitting. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how this beer turned out, especially for being my first lager and first time I performed a decoction mash. I do wish that the beer would clear up with the need for finings but it could be because I didn’t lager it long enough. I enjoyed making a lager, it was a different experience then my normal brewing procedure, much more technical and controlled, but I enjoyed it and want to brew another lager. I just need to find a time that will work for me and allow me to ferment other beers as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

First Tasting: Rustic Saison

It has taken me a while to get around to reviewing my Rustic Saison, partially due to my keggerator being incapacitated and partially due to life events which have caused me to be completely apathetic to anything. However, I now have my keggerator back and I have motivation again. This was my first attempt in using honey in a beer. I wanted the flavor and aroma of the honey to peak through so I added it in after cooling the wort in attempting to preserve it’s characteristics that would be boiled off. As I looked into it a little more I found out that you can actually add honey after fermentation as well since yeast fermentation can also drive off volatile aromas from honey. I never really considered that as an option but I think it would be the best option in the future. The concept is similar to either adding fruit or dry hopping. 

Appearance: Hazy opaque orange-yellow with a fluffy white head that fades a little faster than I would prefer. I’m not entirely sure why the head retention is so poor for the style. I don’t think I’ve ever brewed a saison where the head fades this quickly. My guess is it was my mash schedule, but it could be a dirty glass or dirty beer lines (I will admit in my apathy cleaning the lines was not something I was interested in doing). With enough time in the glass it does clear up surprisingly well, so any haze must just be chill haze.

Aroma: Spicy phenols with a touch of clove and citrus with a floral back ground. I’m pretty pleased with how the aroma came out. I might prefer it to be more floral and less spicy, but it’s hard to control saison fermentation.

Taste: Similar to the aroma, however, the spice from the yeast is much more apparent. Black pepper, clove, and cinnamon with a touch of citrus. I don’t get much of the honey in the flavor, but I assumed it would be that way since the honey is pretty much 100% fermentable, there shouldn’t be any residual sugars left for flavor. 

Mouthfeel: This is probably the aspect that I’m most disappointed with this beer. The body is creamier then I would like and fuller then I would want in a saison. I think that comes from the fact that the carbonation is too low, but without a duel gauge regulator I can’t have two different levels of carbonation. The finish is very dry though, which I do like form a saison, it might be the driest beer I’ve ever brewed. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how the beer came out. I would definitely say, after a few batches using my pH meter, that taking mash pH into account has definitely improved my beers. I think the lower acidity improved the fermentation, which dried out the beer and has caused some of the flavors to be brighter and cleaner. It also has probably helped with the clarity of my beer as well. Next time I brew this beer I’ll probably add the honey after fermentation and maybe try to minimize the yeast phenols by increasing my pitch count.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yeast Series: Temperature Affects on Yeast Fermentation

I was asked by my father if I could brew a beer for my cousin’s post wedding party. His request was for BBQ and German beer. Well unfortunately I assumed that he was thinking German lager, which only a month out I could not produce. Since most German beers are lagers, I didn’t have many options. K├Âlsch, Alt, and Hefeweizen are pretty much my only options for a quick turnaround beer. We decided to brew 10 gallons of Hefeweizen and keg it. 

I wanted to attempt to do a multistep mash and try to produce more clove aroma then banana compared to my last attempt at brewing a hefeweizen. Granted the last time I brewed a hefeweizen I believe it was over a year ago and I dry hopped it. Before that I think the last time I brewed one was the first beer I brewed. Since that time my brewing has drastically improved so I was intrigued to see how the beer would turn out compared to the first time I brewed. In attempting to add more clove aroma and flavor I knew that fermenting at a lower temperature causes the yeast to produce more 4-vinylguaiacol, which is the ester that produces clove. On top of that I’ve read that mashing at 113oF will provide the precursor for that aroma. However, after more research and seeing an experiment conducted by Braukaiser, I decided it was not worth the extra effort. Kai’s experiment consisted of brewing two different hefeweizens using the same yeast and same ingredients. The only difference is that one beer he performed a ferulic mash rest and the other he did not. The outcomes essentially produced the same beer, thus in my opinion it wasn’t worth it.  

I used what most people would call an excessively complex grain bill for this beer since traditionally, and in fact by law in think in Germany, hefeweizens are 50% Pilsner malt and 50% wheat malt. I didn’t feel like doing an extended 90 minute boil for the Pilsner malt since we had people coming over that night for a bottle share, however I did want some of the crispness that Pilsner malt contributes. I also decided to add a little melanoidin malt for a touch of bready complexity. Of course the acid malt is for lowering my mash pH into the right range. I was also this time able to correctly use my pH meter to confirm my mash pH.  Since I didn’t have room to ferment both beers in my chest freezer I decided to ferment one in the chest freezer at a low temperature to attempt to keep the banana under control and increase the clove aroma. The other will be fermented at ambient temperature so we should end up with two pretty different beers and it should highlight the affect yeast has on a beer. 

Beer Stats
Grain Bill: 17.5lbs
Boil time: 75 minutes
Batch size: 10.5 Gallons
Estimated OG: 1.043
Measured OG: 1.042
Measured OG:
SRM: 6.4o
IBU: 20

Grain Bill
8lbs – White Wheat
5.5lbs – Pale Malt
2.5lbs – Pilsner Malt
1lb – Acid Malt
0.5lbs – Melanoidin Malt

Hop Schedule
60min - Hallertauer (Ger.) – 2.5oz
0min – Hallertauer (Ger.) – 1.5oz

Mash Schedule
Double infusion saccrification rest 45min 144oF Beta Amylase rest followed by 30min 155oF Alpha Amylase rest infused with boiling water

1.5L Starter – WPL300 Weihenstaphen 

5/10/14 – Brewed with my Dad. Only 0.001 off of target pre-boil gravity so no adjustments made. Mash pH was 5.55 and final boil pH was 5.37. I would have preferred for the mash pH to be a little lower, but still acceptable. Chilled to 80oF, half of the batch was placed in my chest freezer with the temperature set to 39oF, the other half was placed in my beer room to ferment at ambient temperatures. Three hours later the chest freezer temperature was increased to 65oF and the yeast starter was split between each carboy. The plan is to have a comparison between fermentation temperatures. 

5/11/14 – Fermentation has started on the upstairs beer.

5/12/14 – Signs of fermentation in the chest freezer beer.