Thursday, December 27, 2012

First tasting: Chocolat Pompoen

It's been for ever since I brewed this beer. It took me so long to do a review for it mostly because I was not pleased with how it came out. For better or worse here it is

Appearance: Dark black with a bubbly off-white head that quickly dissipates. Not an unattractive looking beer, but I do wish the head would last longer. My suspicion is that the pumpkin killed the head.  

Aroma: a touch of lactose, no real gourd aroma. The Belgian yeast melds very well with the chocolaty overtones. Sweet burnt sugar and spicy yeasty notes which give the impression of clove and cinnamon. 

Flavor: This is the most disappointing part of the beer. There is very little to no gourd flavor and surprisingly little chocolate flavor. The flavor is slightly tart and milky, which is not a very appealing combination. 

Mouthfeel: I would say the mouthfeel is the second most disappointing part of the beer. It’s thin and watery with medium carbonation. 

Overall: I’m pretty disappointed with the way this beer came out. If I would do it over again I would probably skip the lactose and brew a higher gravity beer. The lower gravity is a big part of the weak mouthfeel. I think I might try this beer again next year since the pumpkin party was on hiatus this year with the wedding, but next year I’ll target 1.08ish for the OG and skip the lactose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Spontaneous Fermentation

Ever since I developed a taste for sours, dare I say it, craving, I’ve admired the traditional process. There are very few breweries left in the world that produce sours in the traditional sense. Probably the most famous is Cantillon. Sours can be produced in many ways, as evident by American sour producers. I’m lucky that I live in San Antonio and am close to Freetail, one of two sour producers in Texas, the other being Jester King in Austin. With Texas’ weird beer laws I’m able to buy Jester King at a retail store but I can only buy Freetail at Freetail. This is why I’m lucky to be here; those living outside of San Antonio only have access to Jester King for sours.

Traditionally sours or wild ales are produced by allowing the natural microflora in the air to inoculate the wort while the beer is cooling in a large trough called a coolship. As the beer cools the wild yeast and bacteria in the air cause the beer to “spontaneously” ferment. After a 24 hour cooling period the beers are racked into barrels, which themselves are home to “bugs” from previous successful batches to ignite fermentation. The prevailing thought was that the traditional style of wild ale, Lambic, could only be produced in Lambeek, Belgium.  It was believed that the microflora in the air in this region has the right concentration to produce Lambic and that no other region in the world can replicate this. We know now that the bacteria and yeast in the air in Belgium is nothing special.  The Belgian Lambic producers are able to produce world class beers because their brewery has an established microflora and they have many years of batches that they can use for blending.

There is a group in Belgium that formed a coalition, whose name escapes me, that believes Pajottenland is the only place that Lambic can be produced. It is a group of traditional Lambic producers, Girardin, Boon, and a few others. Arguably the most famous producer of Lambic, Cantillon chose not to participate because they believe that Lambic is just a process and can be produced anywhere. There are a few breweries in America that have tried their hand at spontaneous fermentation. Jolly Pumpkin, Russian River, and Jester King have all inoculated some of their beers from a stepped up batch of spontaneously fermented wort. Allagash actually has installed a coolship and has been producing wild ales with it.

Most spontaneous fermentation producers agree that the best times to ferment beer is fall through spring. This is when they say the right balance of microflora is in the air. During my last brew day, Brett-Brux IPA, I had some left over wort from the mash tun and decided to try my hand at spontaneous fermentation. I collected the wort and boiled it with some old hops, mostly to keep the lacto in check. After the boil finished I poured the wort into a sanitized Pyrex baking dish and covered it with a sanitized cheese cloth and placed the “coolship” under our rose bushes in the back yard elevated by a bucket. I left the beer over night to cool and poured it into a sanitized carboy the next morning. The only aeration came from pouring into the carboy. I then capped the carboy with an airlock. It took about 2 or 3 days for fermentation to show. Currently there is a nice pellicle on top of the wort. I’m going to let it sit and ferment for about 3 weeks then give it a smell test. If it doesn’t smell awful I’m going to try a taste. You never want  to taste spontaneously fermented beer early because there are other types of bacteria that could be living in it early, ie e.coli. After a few weeks the alcohol and acidity will kill any pathogen.   If this works out then I’ll step the bugs up and use it to inoculate a full size batch. Who knows maybe in 2 years I’ll be able to drink my own Lanbintonio. If the starter doesn’t work out then I didn’t invest a lot of ingredients or time and I’ll learn what didn’t work.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brett-Brux Trois IPA (C3PA)

I finally got around to bottling my sour ale. I wanted to give the beer some fresh yeast but I didn’t want to use champagne yeast. I decided to use the tube of Brett-Brux Trois that I bought a couple of months ago. I made a starter about a week before I bottled. I didn’t need all of the yeast from the starter for the sour so I was left with yeast that needed to be used. With the left over yeast I decided to brew another 100% Brett beer.

I’m making this an IPA since I thought the Brett-C and Citra combo was amazing. I decided to up the ABV, it is winter after all, and in doing so I also upped the hop content. The strategy was to use one hop for bittering at the beginning of the boil and then a bunch of flame out hops and dry hop like crazy. Instead of using 100% Citra, since I’m low and I can’t find any fresh Citra, I’m supplementing with Chinook and Falconer’s Flight. For bittering I decided to go with a staple of IPAs, Centennial

I ended up under-gravity again and I’m starting to think it’s not my process that has changed. I used to pretty much always hit my target OG and often be too high. The only change besides moving is the new LHBS. I think that they might not be crushing my grain correctly, just one more reason I need my own barley crusher. Other than that the brew day was uneventful, which is a nice change of pace from my last few brew days.

Original Gravity: 1.050
Final Gravity:
Estimated IBU: 70
SRM: 3o
Efficiency Est: 65%
Boil Time: 60 min

  • 70% - 9.5 lbs –Two Row
  • 22% - 3 lbs – Wheat Malt
  • 4% - 0.5 lbs – Carapils
  • 4% - 0.5 lbs – Acid Malt
  • 60 minutes - Centennial – 2oz
  • Flame out – Citra – 1oz
  • Flame out – Falconer’s Flight – 1oz
  • Flame out – Chinook – 1oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Citra – 2oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Falconer’s Flight – 1oz
  • Dry hop 14 days – Chinook – 1oz
  • WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois
Mashed single infusion for 60 minutes at 153oF, single  sparge at 170oF

(11/24/12) – Brewed by myself. Easy brew day. Chilled to 80F and placed the carboy in the chest freezer. Three hours later I pitched the 1 liter starter a week before. For the mash I added 3 tsp of gypsum and 1 tsp of Calcium Chloride and 2 tsp gypsum and 1 tsp Calcium Chloride to the sparge water. I didn’t shake or add any additional aeration to the wort except during transferring from kettle to carboy. Set fermentation temperature to 57F targeting 62F.

(11/9/12) -  Added all but one packet of Falconer's Flight to the dry hopping.

(12/21/12) - Bottled with 0.5 cups of table sugar. 

(1/9/12) - First tasting. Great results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Feisty Otter

I wanted to name this beer Feisty Otter because I thought it was a funny name. Little did I know that it would live up to its name during brewing. Everything started out fine, hit my mash temperature, all of the water and grain fit into my mash tun, and the first two vorlaufs went smoothly. That’s where the problems started. After the first two circulations my mash tun manifold clogged. I’m not sure how it happened but the actual valve clogged. I didn’t know this was the problem so I attempted to stir the mash; this caused me to accidently knock my manifold loose. Eventually I had to resort to using my hop bag as a filter to prevent the kettle from filling up with grain. It took me about an hour and a half to finally lauter all of my wort.

I ended up with about 7 gallons of 1.065 (I think) wort. The plan was to boil the wort until it reached 3 gallons, which should produce Millard effects during the extended boil and sugar concentration. The Millard effects will cause caramelization, which will darken the wort and increase the complexity of the beer. Despite the fact that I used a single pale malt it should be surprisingly dark. The boil took about 3.5 hours and I added the hops in at 75 minutes left in the boil. For the last 45 minutes I had to really watch the boil because it started to caramelize, similar to making candi sugar, and began to boil up and almost boil over. I had to sit there and watch it and blow on the bubbles to keep the wort from boiling over. Once I reached 3 gallons I started chilling using my immersion chiller. When the beer hit 80 degrees I added 2 gallons of pre-chilled sterile water. This dropped the temperature to 66 degrees. I pitched the 2 liter starter that I made and placed into my newly acquired chest freezer (a birthday present from my fiancée).

I plan on leaving the beer in primary for 3 weeks then racking into the barrel that is housing my Impreial stout. I’ll let it rest for another 3ish weeks in the barrel and then probably turn the barrel into a souring barrel.

I ended up coming way under gravity, which I anticipated just not this far under gravity. Of course this I’m attributing to my manifold failing. It’s funny, even though it’s easier to brew at our new house because I have more room, so far I have not been able to achieve a target gravity from one reason or another.

  • Estimated OG: 1.135
  • Estimated FG: 1.035
  • Actual OG: 1.092
  • Actual FG: 1.033
  • ABV: 7.3%
  • SRM: 11o
  • IBU: 44.7
Grain Bill:
  • 25 lbs – Marris Otter
  • 4 oz Syrian Golding – 75 minute
  • English Ale (1098)
  • Mashed 151F for 75 minutes attempting to use a no-sparge technique
  • Boil for 3.5 hours (down to 3 gallons)

(10/27/12) – brewed by myself. As noted above I clearly had issues. I’m going to need to look at my mash tun and make sure these things stop happening. The boil took forever but I think I’ll have the desired result. Chilled to 66F and pitched yeast, placed in chest freezer set to 57F, should be fermenting around 62F with the energy the yeast creates.

(11/17/12) - Racked beer into the barrel that held Flight by Night. Gravity down to 1.030. There seems to be a decent amount of diacetyl, which will hopefully clear up. To clean the barrel I poured hot water into it, rolled it back and fourth and dumped it. Then I added the barleywine after it cooled off a bit.

Label created by my Fiancee
(12/10/12) - Racked beer back into a carboy for extended aging. It tasted pretty good and looked really nice but the alcohol phenols were out of control. I'm assuming this was because of the spirits left in the barrel. I was surprised by how boozy it smelled since I had just used it for an RIS.

(1/27/12) -  Bottled with 0.3 cups of table sugar. Gravity down to 1.033, much higher then I wanted, hopefully it wont be too sweet. It tasted very good and smelled amazing but it was pretty sweet.

(3/6/13) - First tasting. Good, needs more time, the process maybe didn't do as much as I was hoping for. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

First tasting: Home Sweet Home Hefeweizen

I’m a little late on finally writing this review. I haven’t been sitting on these bottles though; in fact I’ve probably polished off about a case. The hefewizen that I brewed came in under my anticipated gravity, rather than hurting the beer it only made it easier to drink. You might be wondering, how an already easy drink can become easier? Decrease the alcohol so you can drink two.  There are a few things I’ll change for the next time, along with not being horribly inefficient so I can hit my target OG.

Appearance: Very light, opaque pale yellow to white with a large fluffy white head about 2 fingers thick that lingers and leaves a nice lacing on the side of the glass. I was hoping for a little more orange in the beer so I might up the Munich malt next time.

Aroma: Huge peach aroma with a touch of pineapple and guava. I was really surprised with the peach. In the back ground there is a touch of spiciness from the yeast.

Taste: A touch of citrus and spicy yeast. I would honestly say it is a touch too bitter, but that is probably because I hopped it for a 1.050 beer and ended up with about 1.030 so the IBUs are much more apparent. The spiciness helps balance it out and it’s only about 20 IBUs to begin with. I would say it’s between a regular Hefeweizen and a white IPA.

Mouthfeel: Spritzy and refreshing, with a dry, slightly bitter finish. Very easy to drink and enjoyable.

Overall: Very easy to drink, great aroma, and refreshing. Everything I was targeting, besides the OG. The reason my efficiency was so off was because I miss calculated my mash/sparge water. I ended up using too much sparge water, which in return, watered down my beer. Luckily this is an easily correctable situation. I’ll definitely brew this beer again. Perhaps when I get my keggle finished I’ll brew a double batch for next Summer (assuming I can find more citra hops) and do a regular batch and a dry-hopped batch.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flip top vs. Bottle Cap: Round 2

I know it has been forever since I’ve reviewed the two different bottle types but I finally got around to doing it again. This is the second review for an experiment that I have been conducting over the past year and a half. For more information on this experiment and the background you can read here. The reason I didn’t get around to doing the experiment like I initially wanted to be because the bottles got lost under my stairs, buried underneath all the other stuff.  I opened chilled the two bottles the night before for 24 hours and opened them side-by-side at basically the same time and poured into identical glasses.

Bottle Cap 

Appearance: Large head about 2 fingers thick that dissipated relatively quickly probably over the course of one minute. I was surprised by the sound of the pop that came when I opened the bottle.

Aroma: Slight hints of oxidation, port like qualities, burnt sugar, caramel, and raisins. There was a slightly metallic aroma but nothing too distracting.

Taste: Similar to the smell with hints small notes of metal, this from what I can recall was originally found in the beer.  Other than that the flavor has held up well, caramel, raisins, a touch of chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly carbonated still, very effervescent and light. The carbonation might be too much for its own good.

Overall: It held up surprisingly well. I would still drink this beer. I doubt it will hold up too much longer since I did start to detect a hint of wet cardboard in the aroma, so I’m assuming the end is near. Although I do think that would be attributed to the bottling process and not from aging in the bottle.


Appearance: Similar color but with a huge head. I had to wait for it to slowly dissipate before I could pour more. The pop was very loud when I opened the top and the beer started to foam up.

Aroma: Sadly lots of oxidation, wet cardboard, heavy metallic aroma, hits of caramel and burnt sugar.

Taste: Mostly burnt sugar and metal.

Mouthfeel: Very light and very carbonated, overly carbonated in fact.

Overall: I had to pour the rest of the glass out since it was definitely past its prime. I’m not sure why this beer was more carbonated then the other, I doubt it’s infected, but it’s possible. I’ll hold onto the other two just to see if that changes at all.

I’m not aging these beers to see how they change but see how the different bottles affect their overall taste, smell, appearance, and mouthfeel. I think at this point there is a clear verdict. Capped bottles prevent oxidation longer then flip top bottles. I’m not fully against flip top bottles. I generally keep one around when I bottle to put the last amount of beer into it since it probably won’t be a full bottle and I don’t feel like wasting a cap on a half full bottle. It also gives me the chance to check for carbonation without wasting a full bottle. I will continue the experiment just to see how they continue to evolve but my recommendation is to only use flip top bottles if you going to be storing them for short term consumption. I just don’t believe that the rubber gaskets provide as good of a seal as a cap. It will be interesting to see what the beer is like next year.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flight by Night

I was able recently to get a used barrel from Ranger Creek, Texas’ only brewstillary. They not only are a brewery but they also distal their own bourbon and other sprits. They were selling their spent barrels that originally held their bourbon and most recently held a smoked scotch.  To play on the smoked scotch I decided to add some rauch malt, even though I doubt a pound will really matter. I was under gravity, which is not surprising considering the limited space in my mash tun. I also probably should have added more water during mashing, it seemed a little thin. For this beer I decided to go traditional and brew an imperial stout, a favorite amongst beer nerds for barrel aging. I used the recipe that was originally provided by Todd Mott, the former brewer at Portsmith Brewing, for his beer Kate the Great. One of my homebrew compatriots brewed this beer for his wedding, which was going to be for wedding favors. He, however, deemed that it was not good enough to pass out because it was not up to his standards at the time. We ended up trying one a few months later and were blown away by its improvement. The recipe that I’m using was tweaked by the the Mad Fermentationist and then I added some Smoked Malt. I’ll probably only end up barrel aging it for about three weeks since the surface area to volume is so high in a 5 gallon barrel that I don’t want over exposure to the wood and over oxidation. After I empty the barrel I plan on adding an English style Barleywine.

  • Estimated OG: 1.120
  • Estimated FG: 1.030
  • Actual OG: 1.086
  • Actual FG: 1.022
  • ABV: 8.4%
  • SRM: 78o
  • IBU: 76.7
Grain Bill:
  • 17 lbs – 2 row
  • 1 lb – Flaked Barley
  • 1 lb – Special B
  • 1 lb – Red Wheat
  • 1 lb – Roasted Barley
  • 1 lb – Smoked Malt
  • 12 oz – Cafara Special III
  • 8 oz – Aromatic Malt
  • 8 oz – Crystal Malt 60L
  • 8 oz – Chocolate Malt
  • 4 oz – Black Patent
  • 4 oz – Crystal 120L
  • 2 oz – Columbus – 75 minutes
  • 1 oz Syrian Golding – 15 minute
  • American Ale (1056)
  • Mashed 153F for one hour and double batch sparged to increase efficiency
  • Boil for 105 minutes
(9/30) – Brewed mostly by myself some stirring help from John. As usual I didn’t have enough room in my kettle, really need to get those kegs from my Dad. Had to boil the other amount separately and then add it into the main boil. If I wasn’t worried about running out of propane I probably should have kept boiling to reduce the volume and increase the gravity. I was also worried that too little volume and I couldn’t fill the barrel. I ended up coming in way undergravity at 1.086 but no matter it should still end up being pretty bit. Still working on learning how to brew a high gravity beer without adding sugar.

Chilled to 70F and pitched the starter I made on Wednesday and topped up on Friday. Fermentation started in less than 12 hours, big blow off, which will eventually lead to me cleaning my carpet. Strong fermentation continuing for the next two days. I’ll give it 3 weeks on the yeast the rack it to the barrel and probably brew a barleywine the same day.

(10/26/12) - Racked to the Ranger Creek barrel. I didn’t wash the barrel. It tasted pretty good but boozy. Gravity down to 1.022.

(10/17/12) - Racked beer to a carboy for additional bulk aging. It was a little boozy. The aroma was fantastic and the taste was a very good, just rough around the edges.

(12/21/12) - Bottled with 0.25 cups of table sugar.

(2/3/13) - First Tasting. Under carbonated but other then that I would say good. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chocolat Pompoen

For this year’s pumpkin beer I wanted to do something different. Last year I brewed a traditional pumpkin ale, ah la Dogfish Head Punkin. This year I wanted to do something different. For one I didn’t want it to be really high in alcohol. We serve it for our pumpkin party and if there is leftovers I didn’t feel like getting stuck with something that will get me drunk with one bottle. I also tried a new pumpkin addition technique to add to the pumpkin flavor and aroma. I needed to brew it in time to be ready for the pumpkin party so I had to brew it before pumpkin season (about a week to early). So I bought some cans of Libby’s pumpkin puree since it is 100% pure pumpkin. I added the pumpkin to the boil and to the mash. Next time I do that I’m going to use hop bags, what a mess that turned out to be. First I had a stuck sparge, first one ever, and ended up dislodging my manifold while trying to stir the mash and had to use a hop bag to prevent all the grains from getting into my boil kettle. Then the pumpkin in the boil was a pain to get the beer into the carboy. In the end I just dumped most of it into the carboy knowing I could rack it off later. I decided I didn’t want to use the traditional pumpkin spices for aroma, instead I used a Belgian yeast blend, which I hoped would produce a “spiced” aroma. To top it off I decided to attempt to enhance the gourd flavor by adding lactose sugar at bottling. This was an idea I got from the Bruery Burly Gourd. Maybe next year if I have time I’ll brew early enough for a sour pumpkin ale.
  • Estimated OG: 1.060
  • Measured OG: 1.054
  • Estimated FG: 1.014
  • Measured FG:
  • ABV: 
  • SRM: 57o
  • IBU: 28.2
Grain Bill:
  • 5 lbs Two-Row Pale Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Flaked Oats
  • 1.5 lbs Belgian Aromatic
  • 1.5 lbs Brown Malt
  • 1 lb Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Chocolate Wheat
  • 1 lb Carapils
  • 0.25 oz - Czech Saaz – 60 minutes
  • 1 oz – Hallertau – 60 minutes
  • 0.75 oz Czech Saaz – 15 minutes
  • Trappist ale (WLP 575)
  • Mash at 154 for 60 minutes
  • 90 minute boil, 2 cans of Libby’s puree in to mash and 2 cans into boil
(9/8/12) - Brewed by myself. This was a rather eventful brew day. Stuck sparge and pumpkin goop in the carboy.

(9/22/12) - Racked from one carboy to secondary to get the beer off of the pumpkin goop at the bottom.

(9/29/12) - Bottled with 0.25 cups of table sugar and 0.5 lbs of lactose sugar.

(12/27/12) - First tasting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First Tasting: 100% Brett C with Citra and Rhubarb

This is a continuation of the previous review. The previous review was the dry hopped 100% Brett-C session beer. This review is that same beer aged on rhubarb for 2 weeks.

Appearance: Clear, pale yellow with a huge head about three fingers thick. This time I upped the carbonation and it shows. I was actually surprised that there was no color picked up from the rhubarb.

Aroma: The aroma is similar to the other version, pineapple, guava, a hint of green apples and funk. I don’t really think you can smell the rhubarb, some people say they can, but I’m not sure if they would be able to if I didn’t tell them there was rhubarb in it.

Taste: Definitely tart. This is what I was hoping would happen. The beer is tart and a little funky with a touch of vegetable on the back end. I think the time on the rhubarb needs to be shortened to avoid picking up a vegetable flavor. 

Mouthfeel: The carbonation is higher and there is a nice dry finish. I was surprised that with the low alcohol and dry finish that the beer didn’t feel watery.

Overall: This is what I was hoping would happen when I added the rhubarb. To me it was kind of a quick Berliner, obviously it lacks the complexity that bacteria would provide. It does, however; provide a quick alternative to souring that doesn’t involve bacteria or a long wait. I would probably use this process in the future, only I would rack off of the rhubarb earlier.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Home Sweet Home Hoppy Hefeweizen

Finally that we are finished moving into our new house I was able to brew again. I still had some Citra hops left over from the 100% Brett beer and it was still warm outside so I figured I would brew something that doesn’t take that long to be ready as an end of summer beer. My idea was a dry-hopped hefeweizen. It was interesting brewing again since I had a routine down at the apartment but not at our house. It was nice brewing in the backyard since I have a water hose now and I don’t have to bring everything inside to clean it in the shower. The only problem was that I had to figure out where to put my mash tun, luckily I discovered that I could put it on a table that I welded in high school and it worked perfectly. I did encounter some issues while brewing that I have yet to figure out. I came in way under my target gravity, which is either because I sparged with too much water or I didn’t get enough grains from my LHBS. My mash calculator is usually pretty accurate with its calculations and I didn’t change anything since I’m using the same equipment so my only assumption is that I was not given enough grain from the homebrew store. I would attribute that to the fact that they opened a new store and they have new employees, since I never had this problem at the old location, probably just an honest mistake. No worries here I always love a good session beer.
  • Estimated OG:1.049
  • Measured OG: 1.036
  • Estimated FG: 1.012
  • Measured FG:
  • ABV:
  • SRM: 4o
  • IBU: 16.4 

Grain Bill:
  • 5 lbs Wayerman Pale Malt
  • 4.5 lbs German Two-Row Pils
  • 0.5 lb Munich Malt
  • 1 oz Hallertau – 45 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Citra – 5 minutes
  • 0.5 oz Citra – 0 minutes
  • 2 oz Citra – Dry hop - 10 days
  • Weihenstephan Weizen (3068)
(9/3/12) – Brewed by myself. Uneventful brew day other than the fact I was way under gravity. Forgot to use my hop bag during the boil so it took me longer then I wanted to rack to the carboy. Cooled as low as I could, about 80 degrees (I really need a plate chiller) waited a few more hours for it to chill a little more in my house and pitched the tube of yeast. No starter needed for this yeast.

(9/4/12) – Nice thick krausen after 24 hours.

(9/8/12) – Racked to the secondary to make room for this year’s pumpkin beer and added the Citra hops.

(9/20/12) – Bottled with 0.5 cups of table sugar.

(10/15/12) - First tasting.