Thursday, January 9, 2014

Final Round: Flip Top vs. Bottle Cap

This is the third and final installment of Flip Top vs Bottle Cap. If you recall from my previous postings (first and second) my hypothesis is that they flip top bottle would let in more oxygen and thus increase the oxidation rate due in part to the rubber gasket drying out over time. I figured the cap would not have this issue. 

Each beer was from the same batch and was bottled at the same time using a bottling bucket and a bottling wand. Any oxidation that occurred during bottling and racking would have affected each beer equally. They have been stored next to each other in a box for over two years. I figured at this point in time the oxidation differences would be noticeable and I would be able to make a definitive judgment on which bottle is better for long term storage. The beers used were a Dunkelweizen, which is not the best beer for long term storage, but it’s the only beer I had available that was bottled in both types of bottles. 

In order to get a good idea of head retention I opened each bottle one right after the other and poured them each down the middle of the glass and waited 30 seconds before I took a picture. As you can see one beer had significantly better head retention then the other, but it was not the beer I thought would have better head retention.  Looking back at my notes I recall that the flip top bottle had the same kind of head retention. 

One of the issues with this experiment is that I don’t know the exact process that was used to bottle the beer. The bottling was performed by my father so I have no idea how he added the sugar, how the bottling was preformed, or how long the beers were exposed to air prior to capping. I will assume he mostly followed the process that I tough him. 

  1. Sugar was boiled and cooled then added to the bottling bucket slowly to avoid splashing while the beer was being racked from the carboy to the bottling bucket to evenly spread the priming sugar.
    1. It’s possible this was not the case. Normally I try to create a small whirlpool to spread the sugar evenly. There is no splashing so it shouldn’t be aerating the beer too much. Now I would just create a bed of CO2. I’m assuming he added the sugar after it was racked, which might explain what I would call uneven carbonation and bottle variation.
  2. Each bottle was filled and a cap was placed on top and left to allow the CO2 to push the air out of the head space. The flip top bottles were not locked until later as well for the same reason.
    1. Again it’s possible that my Dad capped them right after filling. I’m not exactly sure what his process is for bottling.
Regardless I feel the experiment is a pretty good evaluation of the oxidation of long term storage of flip top bottles and bottle caps.

Flip top

Appearance: The beer pours a large off white head that slowly fades to a centimeter thick lacing over the top of the beer. Clear reddish brown with small chunks of yeast in the bottom of the glass. 

Aroma: The aroma actually jumps out of the glass. There are hints of cereal, banana, and toffee, but mostly cola. I’ve only once before had a beer that smelled like cola. There is a touch of diacetyl and wet cardboard from oxidation. 

Flavor: More cola just like the aroma with a touch of butter, wet cardboard and banana. 

Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation with a medium body and dry finish. 

Overall: The beer held up pretty well all things considered. I preferred the flip top to the bottle cap mostly due to the body. 

Bottle Cap

Appearance: The head flairs up quickly but fades just as fast to a small lacing over the top of the beer. Clear reddish brown with small chunks of yeast in the bottom of the glass. A noticeable difference was the size of the bubbles in the head. The bubbles in this version were much larger than the flip top bottle. 

Aroma: The aroma is similar to the flip top although it is not as strong. The aroma is a little more restrained. 

Flavor: More cola just like the aroma with a touch of butter, toffee, wet cardboard and banana.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is pretty weak, slightly watery with a prickly carbonation, my least favorite part of the beer.

Overall: It also held up pretty well but not as well as the flip top. The body is what really killed this beer. 

Conclusion: I think honestly that both beers held up pretty well, with regards to oxidation. I wouldn’t say the beer style held up well to long term aging, but again this wasn’t a study on the effects of aging on a Dunkelweizen. There were minimal signs of oxidation in each beer, so I can say that it probably doesn’t matter if you’re using flip tops or bottle caps. If you’re going be drinking the beers over a few months then it doesn’t matter. Based off of the results of this experiment I would say that it doesn’t matter that much for long term aging either. My main concern would be with the introduction of air to the beer during bottling process. I think that is probably where most of the oxidation comes from, as opposed to air leaking through the seal of either bottle.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Yeast Series: Black IPA (C2 Brett vs. Conan)

This will be the first in what will probably end up being a continuing series or beers. I’m calling it my Yeast Series. The plan is to every now and then brew a 10 gallon batch and split it up into two different carboys and add different yeast. Brewing the same beer and using different yeast should highlight the differences between the yeast. The plan is to try to compare ale yeast and Brett. Brettanomyces primary fermentations are still new to the brewing world so my goal is to provide a comparison between an Ale stain, something familiar, and a Brettanomyces strain. The recipe will vary as will the yeast but it will at least give a comparison for how the two yeast strains behave in a similar beer. 

For the first installment I chose to use two yeast that I have brewed with in the past. This experiment is interesting because each strain is a commercial strain that is not used for this type of beer. I chose to use the Conan strain and BKyeast C2 in a Black IPA. I’ve read that Brett will perform different with the introduction of dark malts so it should be interesting to see if this is true or not. Conan, on the other hand, is used for only one beer on the commercial side, so it will be interesting to see how it behaves with the introduction of dark malt. 

The two yeast are known for producing fruity aromas, strawberries most noticeably for C2 and peaches for Conan. To pair with this I chose to experiment with Mosaic hops, which are known to produce blueberry flavors and aromas and Centennial, which I thought would provide a nice citrus compliment. 

I’ve never brewed a black IPA before but the ones that I like tend to be low on the roasted flavor and aroma. They are practically regular IPAs with some dark coloring. To replicate this I tried a technique used for dark lagers. Well I guess technically dark lagers use a cold mash technique, so this is a riff on that technique. I used de-husked Carafa III because without the husk the sharpness should be cut down along with the astringency. I also decided to add it to the last 15 minutes of the mash to minimize the roasted aroma and flavor pick up from a full mash. Everything went smoothly until the end when I noticed I needed to change one of my tubes on my wort chiller, which only slowed me down a little bit and forced me to multitask. I forgot again to add sugar at the 15 minutes mark but I did remember at flame out this time instead of 30 minutes into my whirlpool so I was able to integrate the sugar. Oddly enough I over estimated my evaporation rate so I ended up with about 1.5 gallons extra wort. 

This was also the first beer that I’ve brewed where I took pH into account. I’ve been reading about pH adjustment and I’ve been making salt adjustments for a while but I’ve yet to adjust my pH. I received a pH meter from my wife for Christmas, but I didn’t use it when I brewed this beer. However, I did make calculation prior to brewing. In Texas we have really alkaline water, so it is normally necessary for us to add acid to the mash, and it’s especially important to do it when brewing an IPA. If you ready my tasting notes on my Heady Clone you’ll see that I felt the bitterness was a little sharp, which I’ve attributed to the alkalinity of my water. The best IPA I brewed was my 100% Brett-Brux IPA, where I added acid malt because I thought it would be good for the yeast, not knowing that it probably helped with the perceived smoothness of the bitterness. My estimated mash pH this time was 5.3, whereas my calculated pH from the Heady clone was probably closer to 5.8-5.9. I also bought some lactic acid to add to my sparge water to lower the pH so that I don’t extract tannins from the grain husk. 

Without further adieu, here are the details

Est. OG: 1.064
Measured OG: 1.061
Est. FG: 1.018
Measured FG:1.012 (both)
ABV: 6.8% (both)
Efficiency: 74.8%
Batch size: 10.5 gallons
Boil Time: 60 minutes
IBU: 53
SRM: 36o

Grain Bill:
47% - Two-Row – 12lbs
11% - Bohemian Pils – 3lbs
11% - Cara 45 – 3lbs
7% - De-husked Carafa III – 2lbs
7% - Vienna – 2lbs
7% - Cane Sugar – 2lbs
4% - Acid Malt – 1.25lbs

Hop Bill:
45 min - Centennial – 1oz  
20 min – Mosaic – 1oz
5 min – Mosaic – 1oz
0 min – Mosaic – 1oz
0 min – Centennial – 1oz
30 min Whirlpool – Mosaic – 1oz
3 Days Dryhop – Mosaic – 4 oz
3 Days Dryhop – Centennial – 2oz

Mash Schedule:
151oF – Single Infusion – 60 minutes

BKyeast C2

12/26/13 - Brewed by myself. Easy brewday, hectic at the end. Mash only hit 149oF because I forgot that I would lose some heat since it was cold that day. Added 8 grams of Gypsum and 2 grams of Calcium Chloride along with 10mL of lactic acid to sparge water. Chilled to 58F and added 1.5L starter of each yeast separately to the carboys. Didn’t add any extra aeration to the Brett version. Both carboys are way to full so I covered with foil for overflow. Before I added the Conan yeast I took a quick smell and it was very Belgian like. I've read people mentioning this phenomenon when it ferments above 70F but I've never seen it myself until now. 

12/27/13 – Fermentation of the Conan has taken off. Lots of blowoff, trying to keep fermentation at 68F using a water bath and ice cubes during the day. 

12/28/13 – Pellicle has formed over the top of the Brett IPA. 

12/29/13 – I was worried that fermentation had not started in the Brett IPA so I looked up my notes from the Cantillon IPA. I remember the fermentation being strange and this beer is following the same fermentation schedule. A krausen has started to form under the pellicle and is pushing it up as you can see in the picture. 

1/1/14 – Fermentation has started to take off for the Brett IPA and the krausen is slowly coming out of the top. It looks like a barrel fermentation you would see in Cantillon’s cellar. Very slow, with a strong stability, it’s not like a normal ale blow over. The krausen is stays together and falls in chunks.

1/5/14 - Finally able to put my air lock on the Brett IPA. Fermentation of the Conan version seems to have slowed about two days ago.

1/9/14 - Gravity on the Conan down to 1.012. Brett version still chugging along, down to 1.018.

1/15/14 - Dry-hopped the Conan version in a corny keg. 

1/20/14 - Kegged the Conan half and set the pressure to 12psi.

1/29/14 - Gravity down to 1.012 for the Brett version. Racked to a corny and dry-hopped.

2/4/14 - Kegged the Brett half and set pressure to 12psi. 

2/9/14 - First tasting of the Conan half.

2/19/14 - First tasting of the Brett half.