Friday, February 19, 2016

First Tasting: New Zealand White Wine Sour

Wine and beer hybrids seem to be all the rage now. I’ve had some good examples and some examples that are not my favorite. Generally I prefer white wine versions more than red wine versions. I personally feel that red wine overpowers the beer and the result is a fuller bodied carbonated boozy red wine. It may be the type of red wine, which could use some exploring or experimentation, but I feel the fruity and dry nature of certain white wines work well with a sour beer. 

When I blended my sours for my “gueuze” I was going to inevitably have left over beer that I could use to blend other beers.  While I was in New Zealand I rediscovered how fruity their sauvignon blanc are compared to other versions. They have a lot of the aromatic characteristics that we look for in some of the best IPAs or fruited sours. Taking a page from Mad Fermentationist, I decided to blend part of a bottle to taste during bottling. It’s a much easier, controlled and quicker way than using unfermented juice or actual grapes, not to mention cheaper. 

Appearance: Pours a hazy orange with yellow hues and a white head that fades relatively quickly. Head retention is usually poor on a sour beer due to the acidity. 

Aroma: Lots of fruity aroma, some stone fruit, gooseberry, peaches, and acidity. The wine is subtle but present. I’m guessing most of the fruit aroma was provided by the wine, but it blends well with the acidity and natural fruitiness of a sour beer. There is only a hint of funk, but since the beer is not from my barrel, it doesn't really surprise me.

Flavor: Dry champagne like flavor, peaches, lemon like lactic acid and a touch of alcohol. Little to no malt flavor. 

Mouthfeel: High carbonation, bright lactic acidity and a bone dry finish. I would say the mouthfeel is reticent of champagne, with a little more body and acidity. 

Overall: I’m pleased with how this beer turned out. The wine is present, but not over the top and it blends well with the beer. I might try this more in the future with other beers styles. As long as I don’t add too much wine and lose the beer base I think it could work well in the future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

First Tasting: Breakfast Stout 3rd and 4th attempt

Although I like brewing different beers and trying different brewing techniques, I still feel your skill as a brewer on the technical side comes from your ability to replicate past batches. In the past I’ve attempted to rebrew a few different things with varying degrees of success. I fell I did a better job this time; however, there were some issues. The first batch showed signs of infection so I decided to brew the beer again a week later. I’m amazed how each beer turned out considering the problems I had with each of them.  That being said, it makes me respect professional brewers even more with their ability to brew the same beer over and over, while maintaining the same flavor. 

Version 1

Appearance: Pitch black with a hint of brown around the edges with light shining through, topped with a dark tan head with moderate retention.

Aroma:  Roasted and burnt aromas and coffee. Not much chocolate or hop aroma. I’m guessing the burnt notes came from the fact that I used dark roasted coffee, instead of my usual light roasted coffee.

Flavor: Burnt roasted grains, coffee and dark chocolate with a slightly high bitterness. I would honestly prefer a little residual sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Creamy full bodied with medium-high carbonation and a burnt astringent finish. I should lower the carbonation, which isn’t a big deal. I like the mouthfeel, even though it finished dryer than I prefer, however I don’t like the bitter burnt finish.

Overall: I don’t know how much the possible Brett infection made a difference, but I can say there are differences from the other batch. There are no apparent off flavors from Brett, but there are other issues, such as the burnt flavor and astringency.

Version 2

Appearance: Pitch black with a hint of brown around the edges with light shining through, topped with a dark tan head with moderate-poor retention. My guess is that the coffee or chocolate is the cause for the head retention issues. I might through in some Cara malt or Wheat to improve it next time.

Aroma: Mocha, coffee, dark chocolate, caramel , and a hint of roast. I’m happy with the aroma, however, I might want more coffee. The coffee that I used was a different origin from the last time I used Intelligentsia coffee.  

Flavor: Dark chocolate, coffee, roast, a hint of astringency and medium high bitterness. Clean fermentation profile, no detectable off flavors other than the astringency, which could have come from the coffee.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, maybe a touch too high, medium to light body, definitely too thin, with a dryish slightly astringent finish. The mouthfeel is probably my least favorite part of this beer.

Overall: It’s not that this is a bad beer, but it’s not as good as the last time I brewed it. It’s lacking the same full bodied mouthfeel, which could have come from my mash temperature; however, I used the same temperature as last year. Compared to other times when I try to rebrew a beer, this one did turn out better than in the past. Its close, but it could be better.  I will say though, with its lighter body and higher carbonation, it’s dangerously drinkable for 9% ABV.

Edit: I took a gravity reading with my hydrometer to confirm the final gravity. It turns out it finished closer to 1.018, rather than the 1.014 like I thought. It still isn't as creamy as I wanted, but it's not as thin as my mind was making it seem. 

Between the two, I wonder what it would be like if I had added the coffee at the same time and used the same coffee. On the flip side, I can see some differences between the two, from just those issues, since I can’t see much of a problem with Brett. I know it’s there, because I could see it during fermentation, but I’ve been able to keep it cold, which probably minimizes any affects.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blending "Gueuze" at home

Every December, for the last 3 years, over my winter break from work I brew a psudo-lambic. My goal has been to build up a stock so that I could eventually blend my own “gueuze.” Obviously it’s not lambic or gueuze since I’m not in Belgium, use a turbid mash, and I don’t spontaneously ferment. I do, however, attempt to use a similar grain bill, aged hops, and bugs from commercial spontaneously fermented beers. I honestly had really low expectation for this since having a beer sit on its yeast cake for 3 years is a little disconcerting. 

This year happened to 3 years since I started doing this, which means I now have enough beer to blend 3 years. I invited some friends over to assist with the blending. Prior to blending I measured the final gravity and pH of each beer. In addition to three years of the same beer I also included a separate saison that unintentionally soured and a clean saison. My goal was to come up with multiple blends on top of “gueuze.” The remarkable thing that I noticed was that the beers all had a very similar final gravity and pH, regardless of initial starting gravity, however, they all had varying levels of apparent acidity.  

*Calculator from
1)      Unintentional sour Saison – Used Hill Farmstead Anna dregs
2)      One year old sour – Tilquin and 3F dregs
3)      Two year old sour – ECY20
4)      Three year old sour – Cantillon CuveĆ© de Champions dregs
5)      Plain Saison

For the blending session I pulled about a pint of each beer and we began by tasting each component on its own and writing down tasting notes. I did not use a scale or measuring cup for doing the actual blending. We used my pipette as our approximate measurement and measured everything in parts. The first blend we worked on was the ‘gueuze,’ mostly because I figured it would be the most challenging. It was interesting to see what flavor and aroma components would become apparent when blended and what would disappear. The final blend we decided on was 2 parts #2, ½ part #3 and ½ part #4. I was happy to see that the best blend ended up being a combination of all three years of beer. #4 was the hardest beer to drink on its own; however, without that component in the final blend it lacked a rustic complexity. In my opinion, I feel that blending is the only way to get the levels of complexity of Gueuze. Souring beers contains many variables so the same wort, even from the same batch can and will probably end up tasting different. Blending allows you to pick and choose the components you want. 

I blended about 4 gallons of “gueuze” and added priming sugar and champagne yeast. Traditionally, blenders will not add priming sugar or fresh yeast, but instead use the young lambic to provide fresh yeast and fermentable sugars for carbonation. Since I’m not making an exact gueuze, I don’t feel the need to adhere to traditional methods and wanted to guarantee that it will carbonate. After the first blend I still had beer plenty of beer left over. The following are the other blends (all blends are listing in parts):

All beers were primed with sugar and had champagne yeast added for carbonation, with exception of the raspberry beer because it was not bottled. For the white wine, I went with a New Zealand due to its tropical fruit nature. I blended it to taste at the time of bottling by pouring it into the bottling bucket and smelling it. I had about 1.5 gallons of beer number two at the end of everything so I decided it would be a good idea to add it to 3 ghost peppers. Time will tell if that was a good idea or not.

4/7/16 - Bottled 4 gallons of raspberry sour with 133 grams of table sugar. Bottled 2 gallons of dry hopped sour with 78 grams of table sugar and bottled 1 gallon of the ghost pepper sour with 33 grams of table sugar. I also blended 1 gallon of the raspberry sour with 2/3 of a gallon of the ghost pepper sour. All beers were given an addition of dry Champagne yeast.