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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grapefruit IPA and Juicy IPA v2

It seems like it’s been forever since I brewed, even though it’s only been a few weeks, but compared to the pace I was on it’s been a while. I wanted to brew a grapefruit IPA ever since I tried Ballast Point Sculpin and I wanted rebrew the IPA that I brewed over the winter break ever since I tried it and was disappointed I only had 3 gallons. Why not brew them together? 

I sent the head brewer at Ballast Point, Yuseff Cherney, an email asking for suggestions or tips for adding grapefruit flavor and aroma. I told him some of the ideas that I had, including using grapefruit juice to lower my mash pH, which would not have allowed me to brew both IPAs at the same time. Luckily for me he was nice enough to reply two hours after I emailed him with some suggestions. He recommended using a very aromatic fruit (buy different varieties and try them out), try to avoid using the white pith since it will provide unwanted bitterness, to add the peal as you would the dry hops in secondary for a few days (depending on the amount of grapefruit you want), and to use hops which simulate grapefruit, such as Cascade. 

My plan is to brew the two batches using the same wort and hoping schedule, but to use different hops during my hopback. For the grapefruit IPA I want to use more Cascade for more grapefruit aroma and to add some Simcoe for a little extra pine. The other beer will be the same as my Juicy IPA. I’m still trying to get better at rebrewing beers. Part of the skill of a great brewer is to be able to rebrew past beers and make them taste the same. I can say right now that the beer will taste different. I over shot my mash pH by 0.2 and over shot my target gravity. I hit my pre-boil target, but failed to realize until after I added the sugar that I calculated my target pre-boil gravity with sugar added. I could have added water to the boil to adjust the gravity, but I didn’t remember to add the sugar until the last 15 minutes of the boil and didn’t realize what I was doing (this is why good brewers can rebrew beers).

Beer Stats
Batch size: 10.25 Gallons
Boil time: 90 mins
Estimated OG: 1.061
Measured OG: 1.068 (updated)
Measured FG:
SRM: 7
IBU: 60.2

Grain Bill
18 lbs Pilsner malt
2 lbs Vienna Malt
2 lbs Sugar
2 lbs Acid Malt

Hop Schedule
20 min – Cascade – 1 oz
30 min - whirlpool – Citra – 2 oz
30 min - whirlpool – Mosaic - 1 oz
30 min - whirlpool – Cascade – 0.5 oz
(Juicy IPA)
30 min - hopback – Citra – 1 oz
30 min - hopback – Mosaic - 0.5 oz
30 min - hopback – Cascade – 0.25 oz
(Grapefruit IPA)
30 min - hopback – Simcoe – 1 oz
30 min - hopback – Mosaic - 0.5 oz
30 min - hopback – Cascade – 1.25 oz
(Juicy IPA)
Dry hop – 8 days – Citra – 2 oz
Dry hop – 8 days – Mosaic – 1 oz
(Juicy IPA)
Dry hop – 8 days – Cascade – 2 oz
Dry hop – 8 days – Simcoe – 1 oz
Dry hop – 8 days – Grapefruit peal – 2 oz

Mash Schedule
148oF – Single Infusion – 90 minutes
165oF – Mash out

Conan yeast slurry stepped up to 2.5L starter


5/14/15 – Brewed by myself. Added 4grams of CaCl and 12 grams of gypsum and 2ml of lactic acid to the mash along with 4 grams CaCl and 8 grams of gypsum to the sparge water. Collected 13.5 gallons of 1.049 wort. Mash pH was 5.05 (lower then I wanted). Boil pH was 5.15. Chilled to 62oF, oxygenated with pure O2 and placed in chest freezer set to 66oF.

5/15/15 – Fermentation started in the regular IPA about 8 hours after pitching and it was just beginning in the grapefruit IPA.

5/16/15 – Increased temperature to 68oF

5/18/15 – Fermentation slowing, increased temperature to 70oF

5/20/15 - Increased temperature to 75F

5/21/15 - Gravity down to 1.017. Hoping to knock off 4-5 more points. 

5/22/15 - Added dry hops to the regular IPA

5/26/15 - Gravity down to 1.011.

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.

5/3/15 - Added a pint of boiled water to the barrel to increase the volume and lower the gravity. 

5/14/15 - Decanted the starter for my IPA into the barrel to top it up. The gravity shouldn't be lowered much because the starter was already fermented. 

5/21/15 - Gravity down to 1.008. The Nelson hops really come through.

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.