Tuesday, April 14, 2015

5th Gen Barrel: Sour Machine

It’s been a busy few weeks with regards to home brewing activities. Luckily in between ACCF judging (I judged the third most beers, which basically means I’m really good at drinking), the two weeks out of the year that I’m really busy at work, I managed to squeeze in a brew day. I mean after all 40 gallons of sour beer is probably not enough. As much as I want to brew other things I have to brew to refill my barrel because it has turned into a sour beer making machine. I like to joke and say that the reason I started brewing sours is because I’m lazy. I’m able to brew one weekend and then not deal with them for about a year. That way I’m able to be lazy and put off beer related activities. With my barrel, however, I can’t leave beer in there too long because it will develop acetic acid or too much acidity if I leave it in there too long. 

When I tasted the last batch it was already tart and dry after only 3 weeks. I already knew that I wanted to add fruit to the current batch but I normally let the beer tell me what fruit would be best. I don’t see the point on deciding on a fruit to add to a sour beer prior to the beer being finished because the flavors produced could clash. Immediately after I checked the gravity I knew that I wanted to add raspberries to part of it. It had a clean lactic acidity that was bright and reminded me of raspberry.  To have extra options I also chose to use some fruit from the tree in my front yard. I’ve always wanted to use the loquats from the tree in my front yard, but the only time since it produced fruit (until recently) was when I just moved in and I didn’t have anything available to add fruit to. Luckily the timing was just right this year. I harvested the loquats and removed the pits from them while I was brewing the latest batch for the barrel and added them straight into the carboy without washing. I thought it would be fun to add some native wild yeast to the beer. 

For this iteration I decided to maybe do a dry-hopped sour. Of course this could change depending on how the beer works out, but to get it started my plan was to only add flame out hops. My thought process is that with a 30 flame out addition I will still get plenty of IBUs to keep the lacto in check, but not enough to prevent it from working. I will also be preserving the aromas that I’m looking for rather than adding bitterness, which will clash with the sourness. I thought Nelson Sauvin would be a nice complement for what I’m looking for in the finished product. 

Beer Stats
Batch Size: 5.25 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.058
Measured OG: 1.075
Measured FG:
SRM: 6.6o
IBU: 60.55 (theoretical)

Grain Bill
10 lbs – Pilsner Malt
1.25 lbs – White Wheat
0.75 lbs – Golden naked oats
0.75 lbs – Acid Malt

Hop Bill
Flame out – 30 minutes -  2 oz – Nelson Sauvin

Mash Schedule
90 minutes - 146oF – Single infusion

Barrel microflora with Wyeast 3624 and Bernice dregs

4/3/15 – Brewed by myself. I got to use my pump for the first time during verlaufen and cooling. It made things easier once I figured out how to get it to pump. Collected 7.45 gallons of 1.049 wort. Added 1 gram of CaCl and 4 grams of Gypsum to the mash and 1.5 grams of CaCl and 5.9 grams of gypsum to the sparge. I need to adjust my boil off rate since I think I over condensed the wort. I plan on adding water to top up the barrel and lower the gravity.

4/11/15 – Fermentation maybe have started earlier, but I was gone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

First Tasting: Club Brew

Way behind on getting this up, but with long work days and beer judging in the evening, I just haven’t had time. A quick recap: this IPA was brewed as an APA in a club brew on our big system and split into different carboys. Naturally I went with Conan yeast, first because I had some around that I needed to refresh, and second it is basically hop steroids. The beers were designed to be served at the Golden Age of Homebrewing for San Antonio Beer Week. I’m happy to report that my keg was the first in the club to blow that night (that was full to begin with) and the third overall at the event. 

All of the beers we were serving that night were very good and it was interesting to taste them next to each other. If you were not told it was the same base beer you wouldn’t have known. The power of yeast and fermentation. 

Appearance: Pours a hazy orange with a thin white head that lingers and fades to a thin lacing. I would prefer better clarity but it wasn’t in the keg that long and I think our Calcium addition was a little low. Conan is known as being a terrible flocculator, but I’ve brewed with it before and had my beer’s clear out. 

Aroma: Lots of grapefruit, some orange, a hint of peach and passion fruit with some underling spicy phenols. I think the fermentation was too high. Generally I ferment it at 64F, but I didn’t have room in my chest freezer and my beer room was at 68F. I’ve noticed that if the temperature is too high it becomes a little Belgian-y. The dry hoping really helped make my version have the biggest nose. 

Flavor: Grapefruit, peach, some spicy notes, and a touch of grass. I left the beer on the dry hops a little too long so I ended up with some grassy character. The bitterness is assertive and lingering. My version was definitely the most bitter. Thank you Conan. 

Mouthfeel: Medium high carbonation, creamy mouthfeel with a dry finish and lingering bitterness. Mouthfeel was very different from beer to beer. Even though my beer finished drier than other versions, it did not seem as dry. 

Overall: I really enjoyed the beer, even though I only got a few pours, but more importantly, everyone seemed to enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Saison Bernice "Clone"

I’m at the point now that with all of the sours I have going I don’t have any more space for fermentation. Well I guess space is not the issue, its lack of vessels to hold fermenting beer. Every time I have one free it gets filled up again. There is a bunch of stuff that I want to brew but I just done a place to put it. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Santé Adairius Rustic Ales (SARA) Saison Bernice from a friend; however, I didn’t have space or time to brew a Saison to utilize the wonderful dregs in the bottle. I noticed that I had finally had an open weekend with nothing better to do other than brew, but I didn’t have a carboy open. So I went ahead and just bought an extra, it’s not like I won’t use it in the future. 

I wanted to brew a Bernice “clone” ever since I received the bottle. Bernice is one of my favorite beers and I knew there were plenty of hungry bugs in the bottle ready to be harvested. I like to think of Santé as the Hill Farmstead of the west coast, not in the way their brewery looks, but in the quality of their beers. So it came as no shock to me to find out that amongst the many dregs that Santé has used, Hill Farmstead dregs were used in their house culture. I quickly formulated a recipe based off of what I remember from when I had Bernice at What the Funk?!, pale, dry, tart, funky with minimal color and maltiness. Then I found that they were featured on The Brewing Network: Sour Hour and gave out their recipe for Bernice. To my surprise I really was not far off. They use oats and a higher percentage of Vienna malt then what I was planning on using, but other than that I was actually very close. 

About two days before I made a low gravity starter for my yeast (3724) to get it going and refresh it because it had been in my fridge for over a month. After a day I cold crashed then made a 1.040 starter to top up the original and added the dregs from a bottle of Bernice. My though process is that I wanted to refresh the dregs, but I wanted the Saison yeast to be proportionally the predominate yeast to do the bulk of the fermentation. Wyeast 3724 is notorious for stalling around 1.030, which should give the bugs plenty of food left to munch on until reaching terminal gravity. My experience in the past with 3724 is that it will continue to ferment; it just does it slowly, which is why I’m not concerned with the bacteria and Brett having too much food left over and souring too quickly. The only problem I experienced while brewing was just after I started the boil. I noticed the better bottle I bought a few days before was a ported version. So I added my hops in 15 minutes earlier than planned and ran to exchange it (no I didn’t leave the boil alone).

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.25 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est OG: 1.067
Measured OG: 1.067
Measured FG:
SRM: 6o
IBU: 16

Grain Bill
10lbs – Pilsner Malt
1.25lbs – White Wheat
0.75lbs – Vienna Malt
0.75lbs – Acid Malt
0.75lbs – Flake Oats Malt

Hop Bill
75min – East Kent Golding – 1 oz

Mash Schedule
Single infusion 146oF for 90 minutes

1.5L starter Wyeast 3724 with Bernice Dregs

3/1/15 – Brewed by myself. Mash came in a little low at 144F so I added a quart of boiling water to bring it up to 146F. Added 4 grams of Gypsum and 1 gram of CaCl to the mash along with 4.7mL lactic acid, 1.5 grams of CaCl and 5.8 grams of Gypsum to the sparge. I used fly sparging for the first time and noticed an increase in my efficiency so I added half a gallon to bring the gravity down to my target pre-boil. Chilled to 68F and aerated with pure O2 for 45 seconds. 

3/2/15 – Fermentation has started and is bubbling up through the air lock. 

3/5/15 – Fermentation has calmed down, I’m assuming 3724 is starting to go dormant.

4/3/15 - Gravity down to 1.008. Racked beer to purged secondary for conditioning and to get the yeast cake free for the barrel. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

First tasting: Dark Mild v2 (aka Stock Ale)

As usual I’m behind on posting a review of a beer, but this time it’s because I was a little frustrated with it. The first time I brewed an English Mild it turned out awesome. This time from the beginning I could tell there was something off. I couldn’t figure out what it was but I knew there was something. About a week before sending samples to Bluebonnet Brewoff competition I poured a sample and little bits of pellicle came out of the faucet. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how it could have been infected. Although I use kegs for 100% Brett beers, this was not one of those kegs. It could have come from my draught lines, but all three of them could have been contaminated at one time and the other two beers were clean. It could have been from my better bottle or racking cane, but my IPA was in the carboy the batch before and used the same racking cane and it wasn’t infected. 

After some thought I think I narrowed the source down to the gas quick connect. I used the quick connect on the Mild keg to push my funky saison out of a storage corny keg and into a carboy for further aging and fermentation. Although I sanitized the connector when I put it on the saison keg, I can’t recall if I did that before returning it to the Mild keg. It’s an unfortunate situation, but I am intrigued to see if the judges notice any Brett character. I can get aspects of how the Brett has affected the beer, but not much on the flavor and aroma side. 

I brew a lot of funky beers, but rarely have infections. I’ve really only had 2 or 3 confirmed infections from cross contamination. There is, however, always a risk. If only there was a Stock ale category. 

Appearance: Slightly hazy but mostly clear brownish-red topped off by a quickly fading off white head. The head was the first thing that tipped me off to a chance of infection. When I poured the beer it made a fizzing sound and the head quickly faded as if something had destroyed some of the structure of the beer. So much for the Crystal malt.

Aroma: It seems to be more subdued then the last batch. I can get toffee and caramel hints, but not the same malty aroma that I had the first time. There isn’t any Brett stuff going on, but there is a mineral note in the background. 

Flavor: This is another aspect of the beer that seems empty. It just seems like it’s missing some of the flavor that was there last time. I get a stronger toffee flavor but less malty bready flavor. I would say it is not as sweet as it was last time, which is something that I wanted to change. I doubt that the small reduction in Crystal malt would have this much of an effect on flavor. 

Mouthfeel: The most obvious sign of an infection, other than the bits of pellicle, was the over carbonation and lack of mouth feel. My regulator is set at 6psi, which should be 1.6 volumes of CO2, however, it’s much higher than this. The mouth feel is thin and over carbonated with a dry finish. 

Overall: Things happen and it’s not that the beer is bad, it’s just not what I wanted. If I were a professional brewer, it would be going down the drain, but I’m a homebrewer and the beer is good. It’s just a good reminder that I need to be careful with my sanitization and pay attention to what I’m doing. At the end of the day, it’s a good beer, just not what I wanted. I am looking forward to the judges scores and reviews. At least I know what is wrong with it. I will definitely brew this beer again because I like having something low in alcohol on tap.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Club Brew: Low IBU IPA

This past weekend my homebrew club (Bexar Brewers) did a group brew for the upcoming Golden Age of Homebrewing event. This is the second time I’ve participated in a group brew even. Last time arrived towards the end with my carboy to collect wort to ferment and didn’t really do much brewing. This year I definitely wanted to help with the brewing. I chose to take an activate approach to the brewing process. As a group we decided to brew an APA, which is a bolder choice then what we normally chose to brew. Since we’re based in San Antonio we generally tailor our brewing choice to reflect the local beer scene. This isn’t Austin, we’re still learning as a city to enjoy craft beer, so we normally scale things back to be something approachable. This year, however, we’ve decided to take the training wheels off a bit and give people some hops (you can’t start to appreciate good beer if you never drink it).

After I took over brewing when our President left and forgot to add the first wort hop addition, I decided we should go with a non-traditional brewing approach. Why not? Just like people can be traditionalist with their beers, brewers can be the same way with their process. My plan was to use hop bursting since we were going to have left over hops. I shifted the first wort hoping to the 25 minute mark and combined it with the 20 minute addition. We then added a flame out addition. I had to convince everyone that we’re still going to have the bitterness for an APA but it will be more flavor than it will be bitterness. Some people couldn’t figure out why we were not adding a traditional early bitterness addition. It took a little bit of convincing, but luckily last meeting I brought my IPA that used hop bursting. It could also be that by then most people had consumed a good amount of beer and were more open to new ideas. I think an APA is the perfect plat form for carrying hop flavor and aroma. It doesn’t need to be as bitter as an IPA, but it can carry the same aroma. 

During the brew day we really didn’t encounter any brewing issues besides someone not showing up who was supposed to bring RO water, but a quick trip to the store fixed that problem. We did end up being more efficient then we planned, but it was only a couple of points so it won’t make much of a difference in the long run. The fun part will be trying everyone’s version to compare the influence of different yeast strains and to see what people do for dry hopping or if they choose to dry hop and their procedure for dry hopping. I plan on adding dry hops towards the end of the fermentation rather than after fermentation. 

Beer Stats
Batch size: 40 Gallons
Boil time: 60 minutes
Estimated OG: 1.055
Measured OG: 1.060
Measured FG:
IBU: 37
SRM: 8o

Grain Bill
45 lb Pilsner malt
25 lb 2-row Pale Malt
5 lb Crystal 20L

Hop Schedule
25 min - 4 oz - Calypso
25 min - 6 oz - Cascade
5 min - 3 oz - Calypso
5 min - 5 oz - Cascade
Flame out - 3 oz - Calypso
Flame out - 3 oz - Cascade 

Mash Schedule
151oF – single infusion 

Water profile after adjustments
Ca 75, Mg 16, Na 25, Cl 53, So97

1.5L starter of Conan Yeast

2/22/15 – Brewed with members of the Bexar Brewers. Target efficiency was about 70% but we ended up being over. Added 12g gypsum, 2g CaCl 6g Epsom 4.5g salt to the mash with 30% blended RO water. Mash pH was somewhere between 5.0 and 5.4 according to the pH strips (made me happy I have an actual meter). Sparge 27 gallons filtered tap water and add 9 ml lactic, 10 grams gypsum and 2 grams CaCl. Chilled to 62oF and pitched yeast. Shook to aerate and placed in beer room to ferment at ambient temperature. Room at 64oF.

2/23/15 – Fermentation has started, nice one inch thick layer of krausen.

3/1/15 - Gravity down to 1.014. Added 2 ounces of Galaxy and 1 ounce of Mosaic hops.

3/12/15 - Racked to keg to carbonation to 10psi. 

3/24/15 - First tasting.