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.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First tasting: Raspberry Sour

Once I felt I got the hang of making sour beers I decided to start adding fruit to them, because I’ve always loved the fruit character I get from a sour beer. I never really liked fruit beers, with the exception of fruited sours; because I always felt when you take away the acidity of the fruit it doesn’t have the same character. Obviously I do still like some fruit beers (Grapefruit Sculpin), but for the most part when I drink a fruit beer I drink a sour. Of course living in Texas it’s difficult to find good fruited sours, which are not coming out of just two breweries in the state. I’ve been experimenting with different fruits, but one of the classic examples is Framboise. I don’t set out to make a specific fruited sour, unless I find some really good fruit and freeze it for later, I usually wait for the beer to tell me what fruit to add. When I tasted the barrel sour that I had going I immediately knew raspberries needed to be added to it. Since I always wanted to make a Framboise it was a win-win. Half of this batch is still sitting on the loquats from the tree in my front yard, but the raspberry sour has been ready for a few weeks. 

Appearance: Clear bright red, slight chill haze, topped off with an off-white head that quickly disappears. I love the color that the raspberries added to the beer. 

Aroma: Lactic acid and raspberries dominate the aroma. There is a touch of funk from my barrel coming through the raspberries, but they over power everything else. 

Flavor: Tart raspberry flavor with a lingering lactic acid finish. There is a slight acetic acid character that comes across as a sharp sourness, but it’s minimal. I don’t really get any of the barrel character in the beer’s flavor. The beer is pretty sour; I need to take a pH reading. 

Mouthfeel: Light body with an intense sourness and a dry finish. The finish is tart and very dry. Medium carbonation, which I honestly wish was a little higher. 

Overall: I’m very pleased with how this beer turned out and I fell that it is one of the best sours I’ve made to date. The only changes I would make would be to cut back on the acidity a bit to make it more drinkable, but raspberries add a lot of acidity and to increase the carbonation, also to aid with its “drinkability.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Professional Brewing: Strawberry-Rhubarb Berlinerweisse

I’m trying to catch up on recent brewing endeavors over the summer since I have time now. A few months back (June) I brewed a batch of Berlinerweisse at Freetail’s new production brewery as part of my “reward” for winning Funkiest of Show at ACCF for my blackberry sour. Most people probably wouldn’t consider working in a hot brewery as a reward, but I do get to take home 5 gallons of wort and as a homebrewer, we have a different definition of “reward.” I don’t have the actual recipe from Freetail for Yo Soy Un Berliner, mostly because I forgot what it was, however, instead of writing about that, because a Berliner grain is pretty straight forward, I’m going to write about process and my experience brewing on a large professional system. 

In the past I’ve brewed at Freetail before, but it was on their small, cramped, brewpub system. My experience brewing at Freetail 2 was pretty different from the start. First of all, we didn’t need to heat water in the kettle because they have a hot liquor tank on standby with hot water. The biggest difference was the extra space. At the brewpub the brew house is squeezed into a very small space, whereas, at the brewery, there is plenty of open space. There is so much space they have a Frisbee golf set up in the middle of the brewery. While, I do believe the automation is nice (like not having to stir the mash tun), but I do believe that it feels like some of the craft is removed. Obviously I know that’s not the case and at the end of the day I certainly didn’t feel like I didn’t work, but from the homebrew perspective, it seemed almost too easy. 

On to the brewing process: it has been discussed almost ad nauseam on online forums the different ways of brewing a Berlinerweisse. As a homebrewer, we have the ability to try different systems to see which will provide us with the best results. On the larger professional scale, they do not have this luxury. Instead, they worry about beer turnaround time and potential infections to their brew house. If a homebrewer experiences an infection it is easy to narrow it down and replace the equipment, but on a larger scale, it’s much more expensive, this also the same for dumping a batch. Freetail chose to use kettle souring for Yo Soy. In the past they barrel aged it to keep any unwanted bugs out of their brewhouse and because it was difficult for them to keep their kettle full for 48 hours. They went with a basic grain bill for a Berliner (essentially 50% wheat and pils malt) and minimal hopping. Starting on Saturday we mashed in and went through a step mash for head stability improvement. We mashed out and sparged into the kettle and then ran the wort through the wort chiller to cool it to 115oF. At that temperature a pure culture of white labs lacto was pitched into the kettle for souring. After 48 hours we returned to be beer to check the pH and determined it was sufficiently sour. The beer was transferred to the whirlpool for holding after being brought up to 185oF to pasteurize. This step was used to prevent bacteria from entering their cold brewing side. That day we went through process of brewing a non-sour version for blending purposes. The only hops we added were about 4 pound of Azacca hops to 30 bbls of wort. Both worts were blended and Wit yeast was used to ferment. 

I was able to take home 5 gallons of wort that was blended to ferment along with some wit yeast. Now that I had 5 gallons of a beer that I could buy at the grocery store I decided to use it for fruit experimentation. I couldn’t decide what fruit to use until I looked into my Zymurgy magazine. There was a recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb Berliner. I’ve used rhubarb in the past as frozen rhubarb, but I wanted to use fresh rhubarb this time. In Texas it’s hard to find rhubarb in the summer, so I had to go with canned rhubarb juice and fresh strawberries. After fermentation was complete I added the juice and fresh strawberries to secondary. I was surprised how the rhubarb had no color like I was hoping because I wanted the beer to be pink and I had read that it’s hard to get any strawberry color or aroma to translate to a beer. I went with roughly 3 lbs of rhubarb and 7 pounds of strawberries for about 4.5 gallons of beer. I let the beer ferment on the strawberries for about 3 weeks. I honestly didn’t know how long to leave it on the fruit because my past fruit refermentations involved bacteria and wild yeast, this however, was only Wit yeast. I figured that it would be a quicker fermentation and wouldn’t need to sit for 3 months. After the three weeks I kegged it and carbonated it to 13psi. 

Appearance: The beer pours a hazy pink-light red with a light pinkish-white head. I was surprised how much color the beer picked up from the strawberries alone. 

Aroma: Upfront there is a big fresh strawberry aroma with some lactic sourness and a bit of spicy phenols, which are probably from the Wit yeast. I was really pleased with the aroma having heard it was difficult to get strawberry aroma. Maybe the short contact time helped preserve the strawberry aroma. 

Flavor: Lactic acidity upfront with a nice berry and grainy finish. The strawberry flavor carries through into the finish. I’m not sure if the rhubarb added any extra tartness like I first thought since my beer was tarter when compared to batch one Yo Soy, but batch two (which is what I used) was more similar to my homebrew, minus the strawberries. 

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a dry tart clean finish. The beer is super easy to drink and has been a joy to have on tap during the summer. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how the strawberries came out with this beer. Mike at MadFermentationist suggested that he thought the berry flavor and aroma could be from the rhubarb, but it would appear his rhubarb was different from what I used. Who knows, maybe next time I use strawberries I won’t use rhubarb and see what happens. My thoughts are that the berry aroma and flavor was from the strawberries, but it was prominent due to the short contact time with the beer. As time went on the aroma slowly faded in the keg to where there is very little remaining. Maybe that is the key to strawberry sours.