Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Tasting: Sour Wild Ale

This review has been about 2 years in the making. Two years ago I brewed a Saison, which I split at bottling. Half was bottled as a regular Saison and the other half was racked into a 3 gallon carboy and the dregs from a Russian River Temptation was poured into it. I let the carboy sit for about a year and then bottled it. The beer has been conditioning in the bottles for almost a year. 

Appearance: Cloudy orangish-yellow with a fluffy white head that slowly fades to a thin lacing and clings to the side of the glass. 

Aroma: Peach, tart apricots, some spicy Saison yeast remains, and some wheat notes with a hint or barnyard and acid notes. I’m pretty happy to see the Brett making an appearance; hopefully it will continue to develop over time. The aroma is best described as a Saison blended with Temptation. 

Taste: Sour peach, spicy yeast, a touch of wheat twang, a bit of acetic acid and mustiness. I’m happy it ended up being sour. I was always worried about it never souring. The sourness is less than you would find in a bottle of Temptation but it’s possible that more time could have changed this. The flavor like the aroma is similar to a Saison blended with Temptation. 

Mouthfeel: Very effervescent with a medium thin body and a lingering dry sour finish. I would say that it’s probably over carbonated, but for the style it might not be overall. This is the risk you run when dealing with Brettanomyces though. Nothing a little swirling of the glass can’t fix.  

Overall: I’m very pleased with my first attempt at a sour wild ale. There are a few things I would change for the next time. I might let it sit a few months longer and sour a little bit more. Maybe 6 more months, but it was hard to since I was excited about it; however, now I have 20 gallons souring in 4 different locations so it should be easier this time. I would also probably not add as much priming sugar. I think the Saison was a good base beer, but next time I would also go with yeast that does not add as much special character to the beer, Ardennes would probably be a good choice. Regardless I’m very pleased with it and wish I had more bottles.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Tasting: Cantillon IPA

This review has been a long time in the making. I kegged the beer a few weeks ago but was not able to open the keg to add the second dry hop addition and remove the old hop bag because it was pressurized. Normally I would just open the pressure release valve and the open the lid but I couldn’t do that because every time I would open the pressure release valve it would foam out. My solution was to place it into the chest freezer and chill it to reduce the pressure. I think it became so pressurized because the yeast continued to ferment even though I thought it was done. I knew that was a risk but I was willing to overlook it because I thought I could just release the pressure. 

Well after a week in the freezer it still was foaming out, so I hooked it up to my faucet and began to pour the foam out a little bit at a time. That didn’t stop for a week and I couldn’t figure out why. I researched that symptom and found that the liquid lines shouldn’t drop below the liquid output that much. As soon as I placed it on top of the other keg the problem was solved and it poured normally. I’m still learning about my kegging system. 

After I was finally able to degas the keg I removed the old hops and added the fresh Citra hops in a bag to the keg. 

Appearance: cloudy, milky pale yellow with orange hues on the edges. It’s topped with a thick creamy head about two fingers thick that slowly fades to a thin lacing over the top of the beer. I’m not sure if it’s this cloudy because I’m pouring from the bottom of the keg still or if the yeast is just a really poor floculator. I’ll probably know in a few weeks. 

Aroma: The aroma has changed over a few weeks. When I initially smelled the beer prior to placing it into the keg it was full of fresh strawberry aroma and citrus. After a week in the keg it became a big woody, cheesy, acidic mess, which of course had me worried. I’m happy to say that now it has balanced itself out. It’s a combination of orange peel, coriander, citrus, melon, a touch of acid, some nice funk, horsey, and a bit of strawberry. 

Flavor: I think most of the flavor is derived from the fact that I aerated the wort prior to pitching my yeast. Normally I would not aerate wort if I’m using Brett as the primary strain since it can produce acid in the presence of oxygen. I basically accidently shook the carboy because I was in auto pilot at that time. Needless to say you can tell that there is acid in the beer. The flavors are citrus and orange with some ethyl acid and a touch of funk. 

Mouthfeel: Medium high carbonation with a medum body and a dry lingering acidic finish. I like the carbonation level but I’m not a fan of the body. I would have preferred it to finish dryer. 

Overall: I can’t say I’m disappointed with the beer because it’s not really bad it’s just  not what I wanted. I’m happy that I didn’t get a bitter/sour mess by brewing an IPA and aerating the Brett. There are aspects that I would do differently next time i.e. aeration, but I would probably also try to dry the beer out more, maybe mash lower or add some sugar, or perhaps less wheat. I’m definitely going to rebrew this beer and do it correctly next time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Professional Brew Day

I had some time off from work a little while ago and finally got to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. I was able to brew at a professional brewery. I’ve wanted to do that for a while because like most home brewers I dream about opening my own brewery someday. I knew that just because I can home brew does not mean that I have any idea how to handle a professional brewery. 

The day started at 8:00 AM with crushing the grain and mashing. Their operation is a two person operation because their mash tun does not have a stirrer. I was stirring the grain as it reached the mash while the assistant brewer loaded the grain into the hopper. The first 10-15 minutes after I arrived I spent trying to learn how to not be in the way. They have a very tight space in their brew house. Basically enough room for the equipment and two brewers, not much more than that. So I was trying to learn how to stay out of the way and move around the brew house. 

Overall it was not too different from homebrewing. It’s the same basic process just on a larger scale. The nice thing was there was actually probably less manual labor involved in professional brewing then there is in homebrewing. Until I can get a pump I’m stuck having to lift and pour multiple gallons of water. Whereas, a professional brewery is dealing with hundreds or thousands of gallons of water, they have pumps that can move it from place to place. Most of the work involved was cleaning the mash tun after mashing. All other cleaning activities at the end of the brew day were performed by pumps and the kettle. 

One of the things that I would like to improve in my own brewing is monitoring different aspects during brewing. I generally add the grain and water and hope that everything is doing what it should be doing. I monitor time and temperature but I don’t really measure any of my hops since I don’t have a scale. I also don’t measure my mash pH. A professional brewer is constantly taking measurements during brewing to confirm that everything is working according to plan. If something is not how it should be they have time to correct it. For me if something doesn’t work out I’ll probably still make a drinkable beer or at worst I’ve wasted $50, but for a professional brewery they need to make their recent batch taste just like their last batch and they are dealing with a lot more money per batch.

Overall it was a great experience and I’m glad I finally was able to see what profession brewing was like. I now know that it is something I can probably handle and am more interested in learning and improving my own brewing process. The biggest thing that I want to stress about professional brewing is that it is still manufacturing. We as ‘beer nerds’ tend to glorify brewing and brewers. But at the end of the day it is a manufacturing facility. If you are not careful you can be seriously hurt. Throughout the day you are moving hundreds of gallons of hot near or boiling water around and dealing with acids. There are a lot of ways to hurt yourself. If you are ever able to work in a professional brewery make sure to keep that thought in mind.