Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Saison Bernice "Clone"

I’m at the point now that with all of the sours I have going I don’t have any more space for fermentation. Well I guess space is not the issue, its lack of vessels to hold fermenting beer. Every time I have one free it gets filled up again. There is a bunch of stuff that I want to brew but I just done a place to put it. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Santé Adairius Rustic Ales (SARA) Saison Bernice from a friend; however, I didn’t have space or time to brew a Saison to utilize the wonderful dregs in the bottle. I noticed that I had finally had an open weekend with nothing better to do other than brew, but I didn’t have a carboy open. So I went ahead and just bought an extra, it’s not like I won’t use it in the future. 

I wanted to brew a Bernice “clone” ever since I received the bottle. Bernice is one of my favorite beers and I knew there were plenty of hungry bugs in the bottle ready to be harvested. I like to think of Santé as the Hill Farmstead of the west coast, not in the way their brewery looks, but in the quality of their beers. So it came as no shock to me to find out that amongst the many dregs that Santé has used, Hill Farmstead dregs were used in their house culture. I quickly formulated a recipe based off of what I remember from when I had Bernice at What the Funk?!, pale, dry, tart, funky with minimal color and maltiness. Then I found that they were featured on The Brewing Network: Sour Hour and gave out their recipe for Bernice. To my surprise I really was not far off. They use oats and a higher percentage of Vienna malt then what I was planning on using, but other than that I was actually very close. 

About two days before I made a low gravity starter for my yeast (3724) to get it going and refresh it because it had been in my fridge for over a month. After a day I cold crashed then made a 1.040 starter to top up the original and added the dregs from a bottle of Bernice. My though process is that I wanted to refresh the dregs, but I wanted the Saison yeast to be proportionally the predominate yeast to do the bulk of the fermentation. Wyeast 3724 is notorious for stalling around 1.030, which should give the bugs plenty of food left to munch on until reaching terminal gravity. My experience in the past with 3724 is that it will continue to ferment; it just does it slowly, which is why I’m not concerned with the bacteria and Brett having too much food left over and souring too quickly. The only problem I experienced while brewing was just after I started the boil. I noticed the better bottle I bought a few days before was a ported version. So I added my hops in 15 minutes earlier than planned and ran to exchange it (no I didn’t leave the boil alone).

Beer Stats
Batch size: 5.25 Gallons
Boil time: 90 minutes
Est OG: 1.067
Measured OG: 1.067
Measured FG:
SRM: 6o
IBU: 16

Grain Bill
10lbs – Pilsner Malt
1.25lbs – White Wheat
0.75lbs – Vienna Malt
0.75lbs – Acid Malt
0.75lbs – Flake Oats Malt

Hop Bill
75min – East Kent Golding – 1 oz

Mash Schedule
Single infusion 146oF for 90 minutes

1.5L starter Wyeast 3724 with Bernice Dregs

3/1/15 – Brewed by myself. Mash came in a little low at 144F so I added a quart of boiling water to bring it up to 146F. Added 4 grams of Gypsum and 1 gram of CaCl to the mash along with 4.7mL lactic acid, 1.5 grams of CaCl and 5.8 grams of Gypsum to the sparge. I used fly sparging for the first time and noticed an increase in my efficiency so I added half a gallon to bring the gravity down to my target pre-boil. Chilled to 68F and aerated with pure O2 for 45 seconds. 

3/2/15 – Fermentation has started and is bubbling up through the air lock. 

3/5/15 – Fermentation has calmed down, I’m assuming 3724 is starting to go dormant.

4/3/15 - Gravity down to 1.008. Racked beer to purged secondary for conditioning and to get the yeast cake free for the barrel.

4/23/15 - Placed in the chest freezer at 35F to cold crash. 

4/25/15 - Bottled half as unblended Bernice with 85 grams of table sugar targeting 2.75 volumes of CO2. Racked the rest of the beer onto 3lbs 1 ounce of apricot puree to make it West Ashley-ish.

5/21/15 - Gravity down to 1.011 for the West Ashley half. I'll check again later to see if its stable.

6/29/15 - Bottled the West Ashley with 86 grams of table sugar.

7/27/15 - First tasting. I needed to add 3711

8/30/15 - First tasting of the West Ashley half.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

First tasting: Dark Mild v2 (aka Stock Ale)

As usual I’m behind on posting a review of a beer, but this time it’s because I was a little frustrated with it. The first time I brewed an English Mild it turned out awesome. This time from the beginning I could tell there was something off. I couldn’t figure out what it was but I knew there was something. About a week before sending samples to Bluebonnet Brewoff competition I poured a sample and little bits of pellicle came out of the faucet. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how it could have been infected. Although I use kegs for 100% Brett beers, this was not one of those kegs. It could have come from my draught lines, but all three of them could have been contaminated at one time and the other two beers were clean. It could have been from my better bottle or racking cane, but my IPA was in the carboy the batch before and used the same racking cane and it wasn’t infected. 

After some thought I think I narrowed the source down to the gas quick connect. I used the quick connect on the Mild keg to push my funky saison out of a storage corny keg and into a carboy for further aging and fermentation. Although I sanitized the connector when I put it on the saison keg, I can’t recall if I did that before returning it to the Mild keg. It’s an unfortunate situation, but I am intrigued to see if the judges notice any Brett character. I can get aspects of how the Brett has affected the beer, but not much on the flavor and aroma side. 

I brew a lot of funky beers, but rarely have infections. I’ve really only had 2 or 3 confirmed infections from cross contamination. There is, however, always a risk. If only there was a Stock ale category. 

Appearance: Slightly hazy but mostly clear brownish-red topped off by a quickly fading off white head. The head was the first thing that tipped me off to a chance of infection. When I poured the beer it made a fizzing sound and the head quickly faded as if something had destroyed some of the structure of the beer. So much for the Crystal malt.

Aroma: It seems to be more subdued then the last batch. I can get toffee and caramel hints, but not the same malty aroma that I had the first time. There isn’t any Brett stuff going on, but there is a mineral note in the background. 

Flavor: This is another aspect of the beer that seems empty. It just seems like it’s missing some of the flavor that was there last time. I get a stronger toffee flavor but less malty bready flavor. I would say it is not as sweet as it was last time, which is something that I wanted to change. I doubt that the small reduction in Crystal malt would have this much of an effect on flavor. 

Mouthfeel: The most obvious sign of an infection, other than the bits of pellicle, was the over carbonation and lack of mouth feel. My regulator is set at 6psi, which should be 1.6 volumes of CO2, however, it’s much higher than this. The mouth feel is thin and over carbonated with a dry finish. 

Overall: Things happen and it’s not that the beer is bad, it’s just not what I wanted. If I were a professional brewer, it would be going down the drain, but I’m a homebrewer and the beer is good. It’s just a good reminder that I need to be careful with my sanitization and pay attention to what I’m doing. At the end of the day, it’s a good beer, just not what I wanted. I am looking forward to the judges scores and reviews. At least I know what is wrong with it. I will definitely brew this beer again because I like having something low in alcohol on tap.