Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old Hardy - Old Ale

As with so many recent recipes, this is another beer that I've had on my to-brew list for quite awhile now. While I've found that my preference has gravitated much more toward the low-alcohol session beer side of things over the last year, the foreshadowing of a quickly approaching winter has brought back cravings for both barleywine and old ale.

Arguably, they aren't even terribly separate "styles" unless you're really into the BJCP guideline thing. Historically, 'Barelywine' was the title given to a British brewery's strongest beer, even if it was not necessarily that strong. On the other hand, the strength of many of these sorts of brews have dropped considerably over the years as English tax law now works based on the strength of the beer brewed.

Before its distribution was stopped in our are, Old Peculiar was one of my favorite beers. The days of me drinking it regularly though, far preceded my discovery of Thomas Hardy ale after I began homebrewing. Now that both are tough to come by around here, I figured it was time to brew some sort of old ale.

Although I love Thomas Hardy ale, I didn't feel up to brewing a huge 1.124 OG beer this week. On the other hand, a beer in the mid 1.050s like Old Peculiar was weaker than I wanted to go. In the end, I looked at some of the Old Peculiar clone recipe already out there and used the specialty grains from some of those as a starting point, then bumped up the base grain to raise the OG to 1.095. In the end, this is very much like an English Barleywine, except a bit darker than most.

It is my intention, once I get in a couple brews with quick turnover, to brew a big American style Barleywine, and an old ale with Brett C. While I usually enjoy writing my own recipes, or at least adapting them from others, I'm also very intrigued by Northern Brewer's limited edition Northern No.1 ale kit.

Anyway, for the time being I've just got this one going. It'll get aged for quite awhile. Here's the recipe:

Old Hardy - Old Ale/Barleywine

brewed on: 11/19/10
OG: 1.095
IBUs: 63 IBUs
mash temp: 150F

16 lb 4oz Marris Otter
1 lb 3oz UK medium crystal malt
5 oz flaked wheat
4 oz chocolate malt
2 oz pale chocolate malt
2 oz cherrywood smoked malt

sugar (dissolved in 1/2 of boiling water & added to the kettle at beginning of boil):
6 oz brown sugar
6 oz mild molasses

Hops (all loose pellets):
2 oz German Northern Brewer @ 9.4% - 80 minutes
1 oz Fuggle @ 4.2% - 15 minutes
1 oz Golding @ 7.2% - 1 minute

3 packs - Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast

12/10/10 - Transferred to secondary. SG 1.021

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

B.O.M.B. Barrel Fill!

I recently posted a recipe as part of a barrel project I started with ten other brewers. We all brewed similar imperial stouts and then filled a 23-year old, 52 gallon brandy barrel this past Saturday. Everything went pretty smoothly, although once it was full we went upstairs for a delicious dinner and returned to find beer leaking out the top!

It turns out that the staves swelled and pushed some beer back out. Not a big deal. We siphoned 1/3 gallon back out to make a little headspace and let the wood do its thing. Luckily, we ended up with an extra gallon or so of beer, so that is being stored in sanitized growlers (although he may have bottled it uncarbed by now to preserve it) and that will be used to top off the barrel shortly.

Aside from that, we had a great time! People brought lots of great beer to share including a BIG bottle of 2004 Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Jolly Pumpkin Bam, Southern Tier's Cuvee series of oak aged beers, Lakefront Rosie Kreik
and others.

Unlike most of my posts, this one doesn't have a recipe to archive. Here are a few of the pictures from our night though. Hopefully the Barrel of Monkeys Brewers will procure another barrel or two in the future and keep exploring barrel-aging homebrewed beer!

Late Hopped Pale Ale

I've been brewing a lot lately. Twice a week for several weeks straight, actually. There've been sour beers, stouts, chile beers, but it's been awhile since I did a nice hoppy beer. I've been curious for awhile to try brewing a pale ale in which all the hop additions are done within the last few minutes. Theoretically this, while requiring much more hops to get the same bitterness, would also provide a bigger burst of hop flavor & aroma. I brewed this recipe with all the hops added at the 10 minute mark. I will dry hop it as well.

Late Hopped Pale Ale

brewed on: 11/8/10
OG: 1.064
IBUs: 65 IBUs
mash temp: 152F

12.5 lbs Maris Otter
4 oz Carastan malt
4 oz Caraplis malt

4.5 oz Amarillo @ 9.1% - 10 minutes
0.5 oz Simcoe @ 12.7% - 10 minutes
0.5 oz Citra @ 12.3% - 10 minutes
0.5 oz Centennial @ 9.0% - 10 minutes

Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast

dry hopped 11/17/10
1.5 oz Amarillo
0.5 oz Centennial
0.5 oz Citra
0.5 oz Simcoe

11/30/10 - kegged and force carbed.

This beer turned out, probably obviously, *very* citrusy. However, the bitterness just isn't there. So much for that experiment. It'd be a great beer if it were more balanced, and I'm almost tempted to brew a second, very bitter IPA and blend some of the 2.

Deviant Cable Car - Bugfarm 4

I've had some spare bottles of Bugfarm4 blend sitting in the fridge for a few weeks now, staring at me whenever I open the door. It was finally time to get some use out of them and since I've done some really good dark sours lately, I wanted to turn my attention back to a lighter sour beer. In looking over various websites for last minute ideas I came across a recipe on the Mad Fermentationist blog for Mike's 'Deviant Cable Car' recipe and thought I'd give it a try.

I'm excited to see how this turns out. This batch of Bugfarm seems to have a few various bug strains than the last batch, but they all sound great! The list of yeast & bacteria in this blend is as follows:

Brettanomyces custersianus
Brettanomyces Fantome Black Ghost
Brettanomyces Russian River Beatification
Brettanomyces Anomulus
Brettanomyces Boon Oude Gueuze
Brettanomyces Giardin Gueuze
Brettanomyces Rodenbach foederbier
Pedicoccus Cantillon St. Lamvinus
Saccharomyces fermentati Flor Sherry yeast
Saccharomyces cerevisae Saison - 5 strains
Lactobacilli sourdough
Lactobacillus delbrueckii

With a line up like that, how could a sour beer be bad?!

Now that fermentation slowed down a bit, this one is due for a long aging period and possibly some fruit for a portion of it down the road depending on how things are looking. In the meantime, I plan to reuse a portion of the bug blend for future sour brews and the rest will be used for a big starter to pitch into a bug barrel project I am part of! I did up the flaked oats in this recipe, but I kept everything else in line with Mike's recipe from his blog.

Deviant Cable Car

brewed on: 11/5/10
OG: 1.063
IBUs: 15 IBUs
mash temp: 154F

8.5 lbs Belgian Pils malt
2.5 lbs Munich malt
1 lb German wheat malt
1 lb flaked oats

1.2 oz bagged whole Willamette 4.5%? (I used hops I picked from the plants at the local homebrew store, so I estimated the bitterness on this.)

East Coast Yeast - Bugfarm 4

1/10/11 - SG @ 1.006. Tart, lemony and on it's way to lambicness, but completely opaque in the hydrometer tube & glass. Very chunky! With a lot of time, this should be delicious! Photo below after 2 months:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mo Betta Bretta #2

A little over a year ago I brewed my first all-grain batch on my own. It also happened to be my first all-brett beer! I used a recipe based on Tomme Arthur's Mo Betta Bretta from Pizza Port out in CA. The beer was initally very fruity and a bit tart. After about 6 months in the bottle it bloomed into an amazing beer with all sorts of pie cherry and pineapple flavors, enough tartness to make your mouth water without being overly sour, and a brett complexity behind it all to support it and add wonderful depth.

I entered this beer in the Schooner homebrew competition here in Racine, WI in September and it ended up taking the gold for the Specialty Beer category out of 35 entries! While I didn't expect this, I have been happy to use the opportunity to promote all-brett brewing! Now I find myself donw to my last 5 bottles. I'd been running short for quite awhile and rationing these for several months to make them last. Alas, there comes a time to finish off the last bottle of every batch and that time is near. With that in mind, I set out to re-brew this beer. I can only hope that with a year's experience since then in both all-grain and brett beers I can manage to get a similar result! Who knows what silly beginner mistakes I may have made that turned out wonderful! Anyway, here's the recipe:

Mo Betta Bretta clone #2 - (All-brett C)

brewed on: 10/25/10
OG: 1.062
IBUs: 12 IBUs
mash temp: 150F

9 lbs 7 oz Pale malt
1 lb German Munich
1 lb Carapils
1 lb Flaked Oats

.27 oz US Magnum @ 14.4% - 60 minutes

starter - WLP 645 Brettanomyces Claussenii

WLP 645 also contains lactobacillus bacteria. Because of this, I don't want to hinder the bacteria growth with too much oxygen, so when I make this starter I simply grow it in a growler in the closet, swirling it once or twice a day for several days to introduce small amounts of oxygen each time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Barrel of Monkeys Brewers (B.O.M.B!)

Sometime last year, the availability of used bourbon barrels from Sprecher Brewery's beers was brought up at one of our local homebrew club meetings. It was suggested that we put together a recipe and do a group brew to age in the barrel. Then we went on to the next order of business.

A month later, it was mentioned that there were barrels available if anyone was interested in doing a barrel brew still. A few people thought it was a good idea. Then we went on to the next order of business.

A month later. . . you get the idea. Eventually the idea just died.

However, it was in the back of my head and I decided to eventually do something about it. So, I went to people individually who I thought might be interested in brewing a sour beer to put into a barrel. We got a nice group of good brewers together.

We were hoping for a wine barrel, but couldn't find one available in our area. We settled on an easier to obtain bourbon barrel since that's what we could get. That being the case, I suggested we do a strong, dark beer to stand up to the still relatively fresh oak character and any residual bourbon alcohol. Last winter I brewed an Imperial Stout recipe using the Bugfarm3 blend I had gotten via AlB from the web forum. It is still aging, but is shaping up to be among my best beers. We eventually decided on that recipe, although we scaled the OG down a bit from my 1.105. We've all been shooting for 1.085, although a few people overshot that. No big deal in this case.

Over the last few months of planning we've added a few people, including one or 2 guys I hadn't met before that some of the other guys knew. We also found out that one of the main suppliers of used barrels to micros all over the US is within 2 hours of us here in Wisconsin! He has wine barrels, brandy barrels, and all sorts of good stuff available! Since we'd settled on a recipe already, we stuck with that and went with a brandy barrel. Apparently it is a 23 year old barrel. It shouldn't have much oak character left at this point, but we're really using it more as a vessel to inoculate with bugs for future brews.

My hope is that we'll put a couple long term batches through it, and then start using it solera style, where we draw off a portion of the beer every 6-12 months and replace it with new beer. After awhile it settles into an average age of a couple years or so, depending on the frequency and amount of beer pulled out & replaced.

One of the guys supposedly picked up the barrel yesterday and our fill date is coming up soon! Things are shaping up with this fun project and I'm happy I could get some people together to share ideas, homebrew, and have a good time playing mad scientists!

It is my hope that we can get a wine barrel this spring to house in my basement (or elsewhere if someone really wants to.) That way we could have a couple projects going at once. One with darker beers, and one with farmhouse type stuff and maybe eventually a lambic-inspired beer or sour ale like a Flanders.

Our recipe was based off of the Jolly Pumpkin Dark Dawn clone done on the BN awhile back. We raised our gravity to around 1.085, as mentioned above.

B.O.M.B. Sour Imperial Stout

brewed on: 10/11/10
OG: 1.086
IBUs: 34 IBUs
mash temp: 152F

7 lb 4 oz Belgian Pils malt
1 lb 10 oz Roasted Barley
1 lb 10 oz US 2-row
1 lb 3 oz German Munich
1 lb Wheat malt
8 oz Crystal 80L
4 oz Black malt

10 oz Turbinado sugar
8 oz Table Sugar
6 oz Honey

.5 oz US Nugget @ 13.7% - 60 minutes
1 oz Fuggle @ 5% - 30 minutes

Split batch -
1) 3rd generation Roselare cake
2) Dirty Dozen bug blend

The rest of the guys brewing for this fermented their batches with the Wyeast Ardennes strain. I'll be adding my 5 gallons shortly thereafter to provide the bugs to inoculate this batch and the barrel.

For sugar, we decided that, rather than getting super picky, we would go with 3 different additions. One would be corn sugar or table sugar, one would be an unrefined sugar, whether it be turbinado, jaggery, piloncillo, etc. The third would be honey. While most of the guys went with table sugar, I think there was a bit of variation in the unrefined sugar used. I know several batches were done with jaggery, but I also saw bags of turbinado and piloncillo around at various brew sessions as well.


It's been a busy few weeks, both brewing and otherwise. Top on my list of brewing news is my new kegerator! I kegged the American Stout and the Habanero APA I brewed recently and both are now on tap and delicious. The body can hold 5 kegs, or 3-4 and a carboy. I plan to install a total of 4 taps, but started with just 2 for now. Perlicks are a bit pricey!

The actual construction was pretty easy. The entire project so far took maybe 2 hours total, not including time spent running to stores for the tap hardware & wood.

As of yet I haven't sealed the wood onto the body, but I've got some clear silicone caulk to do the job when the time comes. Gravity is holding it in place fine and there seems to be no real loss of temperature as is anyway. I'm waiting until the other two taps get intalled so the collar is still easily removable when I do that job. Aside from that, I plan to mount the temp control on the side of the collar and then it'll be done!

For now, the most exciting part (besides being able to tap a glass of really good stout anytime I want) is the fact that every day I don't spent bottling is potentially another day spent brewing! And I've got plans for several brews in the works! A few high gravity batches (barley wine & old ale) should be particularly fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Gose is one of those types of beer you don't come across much.Well, at least I don't. Once a popular drink in Germany, this beer originated in the town of Goslar and was a spontaneously fermented like a lambic. Unlike lambic, however, this beer is brewed with a large salt addition. Stan Hieronymus' book Brewing with Wheat says it should be like eating crusty bread next to the ocean because of the Munich malt and salt.

I've been curious to try this beer for awhile, but it's not something that's available commercially much so I finally got around to brewing it myself. Since it should be sour like a Berliner Weiss, I built up a decent sized lactobacillus starter and pitched that on brewday along with use of a heat belt. (Lacto- likes warmer temps than ale yeast.) That will provide some lactic fermentation for a couple days, then German Ale yeast will be added. I'm looking forward to trying this one when it's ready!


brewed on: 10/10/10
OG: 1.046
IBUs: 11 IBUs
mash temp: 150F

8 lbs. German wheat malt
1 lb 13 oz Munich malt
1 lb 13 oz Pils malt

0.75 oz Hallertauer @ 3.8 - 60 minutes

Other additions:
0.65 oz coriander - 10 minutes
62 g kosher salt - knockout

1 liter Lactobacillus starter - pitched on brewday
German Ale yeast - pitched 2 days later

Apply heat belt during initial lactic fermentation. Remove and pitch yeast once temperature drops back down to 70.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grand Cru w/ honey & Roselare

As I get closer to brewing a 5 gallon bug starter for the barrel project I have planned with my Barrel of Monkey Brewers (or BOMB) friends, I brewed a medium strength Belgian today for the second generation of my Roselare slurry. The blend was originally pitched into a Grisette wort. Although Ive heard that Roselare blend takes a couple generations to get sour, I have to admit I was hoping for at least a little something. I tasted a hydrometer sample while racking the Grisette to secondary and it tasted mostly malty so far. I guess I got spoiled by AlB's (of the Burgundian Babble Belt) Bugfarm blend I used last winter. Luckily I have 2 vials of his Bugfarm4 belnd waiting to be used! Anyway, I'm hoping this latest batch gets a bit more character quicker from the bugs. We'll see!

Grand Cru

brewed on: 10/4/2010
OG: 1.061 (I was shooting for 1.064, but subbed in an equal amount of honey for table sugar, and didn't boil down quite as far as I expected.)
IBUs: 23 IBUs
mash temp: 150F

11 lbs. Belgian pale malt
5 oz. Carastan
3 oz. pale chocolate malt

other fermentables:
1 lb. honey (dissolved in 1 c. of boiling water on the stove, then added at 30 minutes.)

2 oz Styrian Goldings @ 3.5% - 60 minutes
0.7 oz. UK Kent Goldings @ 5% - 2 minutes

2nd generation Roselare

This slurry was seriously ready to go. After pitching, the airlock was showing bubbles in under an hour and now, 5 hours later it is some of the most intense airlock activity I've seen!

10/19/10 - Racked to secondary. SG: 1.010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Berliner Weiss

Over the winter my friend Jesse brewed a Berliner Weiss that turned out delicious. He used a historically influenced no-boil method where he did a normal mash, boiled a tiny amount of hops in the sparge water, then sparged with that, and then did not boil the resultant wort at all after lautering. It had a butyric vomity character for several months, but it has faded significantly now into a tart, complex beer that is aging nicely. He happen to save the yeast/bug slurry from that batch and made a second BW with it as well that, as far as I know, hasn't been bottled yet.

I got him to share half of the resultant slurry from that batch with me and brewed one of my own following his original method yesterday. I was brewing a Habanero Pale Ale, and happen to have a bunch of Belgian Plis and German wheat malt I bought in bulk just sitting around, a thermos full of BW yeast slurry, and I bought the hops awhile back so I could brew it at my leisure without having to make a trip out for a tiny bag of hops. Here's the recipe:

Berliner Weiss

brewed on: 9/26/2010
expected OG: 1.028

Expected IBUs: 4 IBUs
mash temp: 150F

3 lbs. Belgian Pils
3 lbs. German Wheat

0.5 oz Hallertauer - boiled in the sparge water for 20 minutes prior to sparging

Jesse's yeast/bug slurry

Boiled the hops in the sparge water, but otherwise this was completely a no-boil recipe. I collected the wort, let it cool naturally in the basement with a lid on it, then transfered it to a carboy and pitched the slurry while it was lukewarm (to encourage a bit of bacterial growth before the yeast kicked in.)

10/4/10 - SG ~0.999. Appley, malt w/ slight sourness developing.

Habanero Pale Ale

This may sound a bit ridiculous, but I've been craving chile beer all year. When I first joined the local homebrewing club here in town a year and a half ago, someone brought in a habanero pale ale he brewed and I thought it was delicious! Keep in mind, I love spicy food. We got to talking and he apparently used 16 dried habaneros right in the boil. Not a lot of the chile flavor came through, but the heat did. When I'd take a sip the bite of the carbonation never went away, it seemed to just continue for many more seconds in the form of chile heat. This sensation of the carbonic bite carrying right through into the heat worked really well for me. I know others who've had the same beer and weren't fans, but they all say it was just too hot for them. I can understand that, but if you can handle spicy food (or drink, I guess) this one was a winner!

I've been wanting to brew a similar beer ever since, but never got around to it. Yesterday was my chance! Our habanero plants have tons of peppers ready to be picked, and I had spare US-05 in the fridge, homegrown hops in the freezer, and bulk grain & my new grain mill in the basement! A friend who lived nearby had extra Munich & Victory malt sitting around and donated that. This is the first time I didn't have to run to the store for to brew with. It was a nice feeling to have it all here ready to go.

This is also the second time in 1 month that I managed to brew 2 beers in one day. Whereas the former time was simply a 10 gallon batch that I split with different yeasts, yesterday I actually brewed two separate beers! The second was a Berliner Weiss that I'll post about separately.

Here is the Habanero Pale Ale recipe:

Habanero APA

brewed on: 9/26/2010
expected OG: 1.053

Expected IBUs: 32 IBUs (not sure on this one due to all homegrown hops)
mash temp: 152F

9 lbs. Belgian Pale Malt
1 lb. Munich Malt
8 oz. Victory malt
6 oz Carastan malt

1.23 oz homegrown Cascade (60 minutes)
1 oz homegrown Willamette/Fuggles (60 minutes)
1 oz homegrown Cascade (15 minutes)
1 oz homegrown Cascade (flameout)

12 habaneros (5 minutes)

Safale - US-05

-also added 1/2 tsp of Whirlfloc, Gypsum & Calcium Carbonate during last 10 minutes

10/11/10 - racked to secondary. FG 1.011.

Sour Grisette

I recently got a group of guys together to start a barrel project. I'm pretty excited about it and they are all good brewers! What we decided on for our first batch is the Dark Dawn recipe I brewed over the winter, and since there isn't a Bugfarm blend available from AlB on BBB right now, we're using Roselare blend from Wyeast. I've heard from many sources that Roselare doesn't really get sour until the 2nd or 3rd generation, so I am building up one or two starter batches first.

The plan is that everyone is brewing the same Imperial Stout recipe and fermenting it clean with Ardennes yeast in their primaries. We'll then add it to our barrel. We'll fill the entire barrel with the clean version of the beer, then after a couple weeks, draw 5 gallons back out to see what the barrel added in a short amount of time, and I'll replace it with my buggy batch. We'll see how it's doing after about 6 months. At that point, the plan is to take it out and put another batch in, but we'll see how it is aging and decide from there.

We found a guy (Tom Griffin) who lives a couple hours away here in Wisconsin and supplies used spirit and wine barrels to many of the breweries around the country including Lost Abbey and Jolly Pumpkin! One of our guys gave him a call and he's apparently a really nice guy. He was happy to sell us a single barrel at the same price he sells in bulk to the breweries. Here's an article about him:

We decided on a brandy barrel for now. When we originally got together we wanted a wine barrel, but couldn't locate one at the time, so we were going to use a Jack Daniels bourbon barrel since they were easy to get a a hold of. By the time we got in touch with Tom we had already formulated a recipe that we thought could stand up to the bourbon character left in the barrel and bought yeast and bulk base grain. We decided, rather than scrapping the plan and starting over, to use the same recipe in a brandy barrel, then in a few months get a wine barrel as well. I'm hoping to do some farmhouse style ales in the wine barrel using just brett, rather than a huge bug slurry to start with.

As a starter for the bugs for this barrel though, I decided to brew a simple Grisette, but ferment it solely with Roselare blend to get it started. I'll probably do one more batch on this yeast cake soon, before the Dark Dawn batch. Here is the recipe:

Grisette d'Roselare

brewed on: 9/20/2010
expected OG: 1.046

Expected IBUs: 23 IBUs
mash temp: 152F

7 lbs Belgian Pils malt
2 lbs 4 oz German Wheat malt

1.5 oz Hallertauer @ 3.5% (60 minutes)
0.7 oz Styrian Golding @ 3.4% (15 minutes)
0.5 oz Kent Golding @ 5% (1 minute)

Wyeast 3763 - Roselare Blend

10/4/10 - SG @ 1.006. Racked to secondary. Flavor is malty with maybe a hint of diacetyl in the nose. Hopefully it's just the beginnings of some lactic fermentation that I interpreted as a hint of butter. No noticeable sourness or funk at this point.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

American Stout

Over the weekend, I decided spur of the moment to brew on Labor Day since we had no plans. I wanted to stick with something straight forward as I've done a ton of sour/brett beers that are aging in the basement. I have some bottles left of my saison and cherrywood smoked porter, but that's about it. There's already 10 gallons more of saison on the way in carboys, and the smoked porter is delicious, but a bit of an acquired taste for my less adventurous friends. I narrowed it down to an IPA to use up last year's leftover hops (I just harvested this year's hops last weekend,) or a stout. Since I have a lot of lighter beer in the saison, I went with the stout.

While buying my ingredients, I took the opportunity to pick up a grain mill from Northern Brewer. It's something I've wanted for awhile, but with an order of over 100 lbs of grain on the way it was time. Can't wait to get brewing some more Belgian inspired beers. I've got a bag each of Franco-Belge pils & pale malt on they way as well as splitting bags of German wheat, crystal 40, and pale chocolate!

Once the weather cools down a bit more I intend to brew a barley wine and a strong Old Ale. Rather than bother building up big starters, I've been considering using dry yeast. I've heard good things about Safale US-05 and -04. This American stout seemed like as good a time as any to try out the -05 dry yeast and see how I like it! Here's the recipe:

American Stout

brewed on: 9/6/2010
expected OG: 1.069

Expected IBUs: 55 IBUs
mash temp: 155F
6-7 gallon batch (I ended up with around 6 in the primary, but left a bit behind in the kettle with the sludge.)

15 lbs US 2-row
0.5 lb Black malt
0.5 lb Black roasted barley
0.75 Crystal 40L
0.75 Chocolate malt
0.75 Coffee malt

1.5 oz Yakima Magnum @ 14.4% (60 minutes)
1 oz Centennial @ 9% (5 minutes)
~ 1 oz homegrown Cascade (flameout)

2 packs - Safale US-05

9/15/10 - Transferred to secondary. Roasted coffee & chocolate aroma. Flavor: intensely bitter dark chocolate & roasted coffee. Gravity: 1.023
10/11/10 - kegged. FG 1.023 Chocolate & coffee. bitterness has lowered to an appropriate level.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pomegranate Melomel

I recently found out that one of my friend's dads is a beekeeper. (Yay!) Of course, I immediately jumped on the opportunity and got 3.25 gallons of honey just after his final extraction for the year, at a good price I might add. Now the question has been what to do with it all!

In a separate discovery, I was browsing through the local Indian grocery store down the street and came across bottles of pomegranate juice containing just pomegranate & water. No preservatives. Of course, when these two things present themselves to you within a week of each other, what else can you do but make a pomegranate melomel!

Pomegranate Melomel

brewed on: 9/4/10

4.5 gallons. (Will top better bottle to 5 once primary fermentation slows a bit.)
OG 1.162

18 lbs (1.5 gallons) honey
2.5 gallons pomegranate juice
0.5 gallon water
aerated extremely well, added 1/2 tsp wine yeast nutrient & 1/4 tsp yeast energizer

yeast: D47

I'm a bit worried about the OG. It is higher than I was shooting for. I plan to add another 1/2 gallon of water once the bulk of primary fermentation has died down a bit to ensure the better bottle doesn't spew its contents all over the basement. If the gravity stays too high I may split a portion into a smaller carboy and dilute both with water down to a more reasonable gravity.

10/11/10 - Racked to secondary. SG 1.050. Still mild fermentation taking place. (abv ~ 15.5% and rising.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saison Revisited (again)

This summer has been hot, humid, and busy! As such, I haven't had the urge to brew in quite awhile! It's been a good 2 months or so since my last brew. I think I ended up brewing 3-4 weeks in a row at one point, including a mead, and my subsequent break was a bit longer than expected!

Awhile back, when I started brewing a string saison experiments, I picked up several packs of WY3711 French Saison yeast. This has since become my favorite yeast! Anyway, the final smack pack has been sitting in the fridge for awhile now and when I decided it was time to brew again I knew I wanted to use it up.

The last saison I brewed turned out great! I like it better than any commercial saison and, to me, it is a perfect example of what I look for in a good saison. Low abv, crisp, and refreshing with spices, subtle floral notes and a slight earthiness coming through in both the nose and flavor. The head is about as close to the puffy clouds that float on a good glass of Dupont as I could hope for as well.

I wanted to re-brew the same recipe. Even the basement is a bit on the hot side for a lot of yeasts, but good starting temp for the saison yeast. Once I got to Northern Brewer to pick up my grain & hops, I decided spur of the moment to pick up another smackpack of 3711 and double the batch size! When I got my all-grain equipment I made sure the kettle I bought and mash tun I built were big enough to handle a 10 gallon batch (assuming it's not a high gravity beer, anyway.) It was finally time to try that out.

I left the recipe as it was, but I recently picked up a TON of bottles of various Jolly Pumpkin beers for the cellar. The majority are Bam & ES Bam. Certain aspects of Bam remind me a lot of this saison. They have similar spice notes. The brett character in the Bam beers balanced very well with the hops and spice character from the yeast. Since I was brewing 10 gallons, I decided to split the batch into 2 separate 5 gallon buckets. Half will be dry hopped the same as last time with Saaz. The other half will get dry hopped with Crystal hops, similar to Bam. (edit: I didn't ed up dry hopping either. See below.) I added the dregs, along with 1/2 a bottle or so, of Bam into the primary of this second bucket. Depending on how the beer is developing when it gets moved to secondary, I may add more dregs then.

I won't bother reposting the entire recipe. Here's a link to it: Summer Saaz Saison. Everything was pretty much exactly doubled. The hops were 4% AA this time rather than 3.9%, but seeing as that made a 1 IBU difference, I stuck with the same (doubled) amounts. As noted above, the only change will be JP Bam dregs and Crystal dry hops for 5 gallons. The other 5 are exactly the same.

After the boil, I ended up with 8 gallons. (Oops. A few friends were brewing along with me and we got distracted sampling all the carboys of sours aging in the basement and let the boil go long. . .) I split it into 2 buckets of 4 gallons, then boiled another 2 gallons of water and topped both buckets up to 5 gallons. The OG of both ended up at 1.041. I was shooting for 1.040 so That was pretty good.

3711 (only) batch:
9/4/10 - Transferred to secondary. Added dry hops: 2 oz Saaz (1 @ 2.8%, 1 @ 4%). Trying 2 oz rather than 1 this time. Ropy infection on bottling day. Dumped the whole batch and threw out the plastic gear. This is the first time any beer has gotten unintentionally infected here. I find it a bit ironic that the only evidence of pedio sickness I've seen in any of my brews was a supposedly clean one!

3711 + JP dregs batch:
9/9/10 - Transferred to secondary. SG 1.003. Spices & brett in nose. Tastes slightly tart, spices (ginger?,) and fruity brett. Delicious!

10/4/10 SG ~1.001 Developed the same ropiness that the other half had. The taste seemed similar to earlier, but more sour. I wish I could've gotten a better taste, but I couldn't stomach keeping the mucus-like beer in my mouth any more and had to spit it out.

1/21/11 - Tasted this a few days ago while giving friends a tour of the sour beers. It is in a really good place right now and the sickness has gone away. I'm looking forward to getting this in bottles soon!

2/2/11 - Snowed in by a huge blizzard, so I had Annie help me bottle this half. It tastes amazing as is, so I opted not to dry hop after all. I'll have some fellow brewers try it after it carbs and give me opinions about possibly dry hopping next time. Unfortunately, I ended up with a bit over 4 gallons rather than the 5 I hoped for. The hydrometer sample tasted somewhere between a Bam Biere and a lambic. Very little brett character, but a nice crisp, tart acidity that offsets the extreme dryness of this beer. I'm expecting the carbonation to add another dimension to the crisp body, but honestly I'd drink the entire batch flat with no complaints!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sour Cherry Melomel

I've gotten in the habit of putting together a few batches of mead each year and this is the first for 2010. At one or two years age before they are really good in most cases, I feel like I should continue doing this so as to eventually have a nice turnaround. My first attempt was last July (2009) and I bottled it early. I did several things wrong with it including pitching a weak yeast just before leaving on vacation so I couldn't feed it during the first few days. We also moved over the winter and the carboy got shook up more than I'd like on the car ride even though I was extremely careful with it. I also didn't rack it enough times and the bottles have sediment. It ended up with a very yeasty flavor to it which I'm hoping will mellow out a little with more time. For now, it's not great, but it's not something I would dump either. It's just below average in my opinion for now.

My second batch was started in early September of 2009 using cranberry blossom honey delivered by a friend from a beekeeper in Tomah, WI. I haven't tasted it recently, but I have high hopes that although it also didn't get the best treatment while moving, it will hopefully turn out better.

Now that I've done this a couple times and have some experience under my belt, I set out to make what I hope will be a much better end product. I pciked up 2 gallons of sour Montmorency cherry juice from a local store, 12 lbs of Wildflower honey from Northern Brewer, augmented with 4 more lbs of Basswood honey from our local homebrewing store in Racine.

Sour Cherry Melomel

brewed on: 6/13/10

12 lbs (1 gallon) Wildflower honey (northern brewer)
3 gallons water
2 gallons sour cherry juice (SG 1.051)
4 lbs Basswood honey (added later once yeast krausened)
aerated extremely well, added 2 tsp wine yeast nutrient & 1 tsp yeast energizer

yeast: BM45

More yeast energizer & nutrient added once per day for the next 2 days.
Re-aerated around 1.5 days later with addition of Basswood honey.

I'm shooting for something on the sweet side to balance the sour cherries, thus adding more honey. I was originally planning on 5 gallons, but it ended up being 6 with the addition of the Basswood honey. Possibility of topping up down the road with more cherry juice after racking.

I need to sit down and figure out the approximate OG on this one due to the late honey addition and cherry juice.

I didn't get to take an OG reading since the fermentables were not added together. However, I've calculated the gravity roughly as follows:

expected OG - 1.098
FG - 1.020
ABV - ~10.5%

7/13 - Transferred to secondary. SG @ 1.020. Alcohol a bit harsh. Still very cloudy. (Need to add a handful of raisins soon.)

12/10/10 - bottled. FG 1.020

Wine Yeast Experiment

Awhile back I listened to a Sunday Session podcast with Shea Comfort (from 11-23-08.)If anyone reading this hasn't listened to it I *highly* recommend it! They cover two different topics, both of which are quite helpful. The first deals with using wine yeast in beer.

Most wine yeast is incapable of digesting maltotriose which is one of the complex sugar chains present in malt. Since there's no malt in wine/mead/cider, this normally isn't an issue. Comfort talked about an enzyme called Convertase AG-300 which, when added to the fermenter in very small amounts, breaks up all the complex sugar chains into simple sugars that are easily fermentable. This will completely dry a beer out though unless a tiny, tiny, tiny amount were added.

Wine yeasts are interesting creatures to use in beer fermentation because they can impart some great fruit flavors and big mouthfeel (even in drier beers, since it isn't coming from residual sugar like most homebrewers are used to) to the final product. Ale and wine yeast strains are all members of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, as opposed to Saccharomyces Pastorionus (lager yeast) and Brettanomyces strains. Some Sacch C. strains are killer, some are neutral, and some are susceptible. The way this breaks down is that killer strains secrete compounds which will completely kill off a susceptible strain within about 12 hours. However, they will not affect neutral strains. Neutral strains and susceptible strains will coexist fine. Pretty much all standard ale strains are susceptible.

The problem in using wine and ale strains in the same batch becomes that the wine yeast will kill off the ale strain, but won't be able to digest the maltotriose, thus the need for AG-300 enzyme to break down the maltotriose into simple sugars. Other approaches include adding the wine strain later in fermentation, after you've gotten what you want from the ale strain, or blending from a split batch using 2 or more different strains of yeast.

They discussed several different wine strains on which I took notes. White wine yeasts tend to impart either apple/pear, or tropical/citrus flavors. Red wine yeasts tend to impart cherry or berry flavors. I will outline some of the notes on specific strains here:

Susceptible, white, general fruit salad

Killer, white, champagne yeast, relatively neutral flavor, general background winey (fruit/grape, not alcohol) Useful for Belgians, etc. Good for bottle conditioning a finished beer due to its strength.

Killer, white, peach and stone fruit flavors

Killer, red, fresh berry. (Comfort suggested Stout, Porter, Kriek, Lambic as possible uses)

Killer, red, cherry, big mouthfeel (won't get broken down as it dries out). Comfort suggested 1/3 this yeast, 2/3 ale yeast in split batch. Cold crash a lot and re-yeast to bottle.

Killer, red, berrylike flavor
Convertase AG-300
suggested dosage of .08-.28ml/gallon

I ordered some Convertase AG-300 to play around with and brewed a batch as an experiment. I decided to do a split batch and ferment part with WY3711 French Saison strain. (I had several packs of this in the fridge, and I really like it. I chose it for this simply because it was onhand and I was hoping the spiciness would complement the fruitiness of the wine yeast.) I opted for BM-45 for the rest to see how much cherry flavor and mouthfeel it produces.

I stuck with an extremely simple grist since this was an experimetn, adding only a small amount of Crystal malt to an otherwise all base malt bill.

Wine Yeast Experiment I

brewed on: 4/30/10
expected OG: 1.044

Expected IBUs: 31
mash temp: 152F

8 lb Maris Otter
1 lb Crystal 40L malt

2 oz Willamette @ 4% - 60 minutes
0.6 oz Kent Golding @ 4.8% - 15 minutes


1.5-2 gallons - BM45 Brunello
4 gallons - WY3711 French Saison yeast

The BM45 batch finished very early after just a couple days and I added .25ml of Convertase. Within 12 hours the fermentation picked back up again for several more days!

6/13 - The 3711 batch finished at 0.002, not unexpectedly as this yeast is a monster. The BM45 (w/ Convertase) batch completely dried out to 0.000! I have to admit I was disappointed in the lack of overwhelming cherry flavor I was hoping for from this batch. However, as I sipped the sample I did begin to pick it up. However, being bone dry obscures it a little. I blended the 2 batches together in a secondary. While I'm not expecting anything amazing from this blend, I do think the spice and fruit will complement each other well still. I need to decide if I want to augment this somehow to add some residual sugar, or possibly brett and something for it to nibble on. We'll see when I taste the blend soon, given some time to actually blend together completely.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cherrywood Smoked Porter

Brewing at my friend Dan's house is becoming a regular get-together every few months. We got together on 5-23 for our most recent brewday. (I'm obviously very behind on my posting here. . .) On past outings to our local Northern Brewer store in Milwaukee I've been tasting various grains that I wasn't familiar with. The Briess cherrywood smoked malt really stood out to me, and to my taste was definitely better than the normal beechwood smoked stuff. Tasting this grain inspired me to brew a smoked beer, although it took a few months to actually get around to it due to the large to-brew list I've had going lately!

When the weather is nice, as it was this time, we all brew out in the yard or on the deck. I tend to do my mash/sparge inside though due to ease of using the kitchen table. Apparently when I was doughing in the guys could smell the smokey aroma from this grist all the way outside and across Dan's relatively large yard! I have to admit, it did smell pretty damn good.

Cherrywood Smoked Porter

brewed on: 5/23/10
expected OG: 1.060

Expected IBUs: 37
mash temp: 154F

6.4 lbs American 2-row
4 lbs Munich malt
2 lbs Briess Cherrywood Smoked malt
12 oz Crystal 40L malt
11oz Chocolate malt
7 oz Debittered Black malt

.75 oz - Columbus @ 14.2% - 60 minutes
.75 oz - Willamette @ 4.9% - 15 minutes

Wyeast 1968 - London ESB Ale

With the nice weather the temperature in our house really jumped curing the first 12 hours after I pitched the yeast and this thing took off, but the ambient temp was in the mid-70F range. I quickly moved it down into the basement which is in the low 60s instead. This is supposedly on the really low end for this yeast which has been known to floc out very easily, and sometimes too soon, so I made sure to give the pail a good swirl 2-3 times a day for the first few days. I mashed pretty high, at 154F, and my Beer Alchemy software was predicting a FG of 1.020, but when I racked this beer to the secondary it was at 1.015.

6/13 - racked to secondar
y. OG 1.015. This beer tastes delicious! The smoke flavor is very subdued in the nose, but present. Nice thick mouthfeel without being too sweet. The smoke flavor is perfectly balanced with other elements of this beer. It starts off tasting smokey with tiny hints of dark fruit that I like in small amounts in some porters, but transitions through notes of roasted coffee, and chocolate. This might very well be the most complex flavor profile I've gotten in a non-sour yet. Like a good wine, the flavors roll over the tongue one by one for several seconds. I can't wait to get this bottled and hope the level of smoke stays present until it is conditioned.

This is a funny picture one of the guys took. He did an extract batch with a small bag of grain to steep. Afterward he hung it from a tree for some reason. It was maybe four inches wide. I'm actually standing 9 or 10 feet behind the bag and the camera is extremely close to it. It's a funny optical illusion though!

7/3 - Bottled w/ 2.5oz corn sugar

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dark Belgian "Archaic Beer"

On May 1st, some of the members of our local homebrew club, the Belle City Brewers and Vintners, got together at our local homebrewing store to brew together. It was a fun day with a few people doing their first all-grain batches (one of which was a RIS. What a way to start into all-grain!) Actually, last year when I went to my first big brew day, I was inspired to start doing all-grain as well after seeing how much easier it was than I'd imagined.

I recently got a chance to try the 2007 vintage of De Struise's Pannepot. This is officially one of my new favorite beers! It has tons of dark fruit flavors, a bit of coffee, and more. Between drinking Pannepot, De Dolle's Oerbier, and De Dolle's export stout recently, a beer in this vein has been something on mind mind to brew for quite awhile. (I had a bottle of Thomas Hardy recently as well, which I hadn't had in a year or two, and although it is coming from a different sort of place, I've gotta say those dark, complex Old Ales are very much along similar lines, at least to my taste.)

My friend, Jesse, and I polished off all 3 bottles of Pannepot I picked up and I pitched the dregs into a starter. Since it was a roughly 3 year old vintage, I built up the starter repeatedly, until it was just under 2 liters, to get the yeast going again. I plan to culture up more yeast from dregs in the future, as it is pretty easy. (I'm currently growing a starter from dregs of a Fantome Printemps. I haven't decided what to do with it yet.)

After taking a look at the Wild Brews recipe for Donkere Geneeskunde, and browsing various recipes on the web, I settled on a slight adaption of a collaboration recipe between De Struise and Sean Paxton.

Belgian Dark Archaic

brewed on: 5/1/10
expected OG: 1.080 (Since I got a late start and this ended up being a long boil I only boiled it down to a bit under 6 gallons, but the gravity was not too far shy of what I was shooting for. The OG was between 1.075 and 1.080.)

Expected IBUs: 26
mash temp: 153F

6 lb US 2-row
5 lb Belgian Pale malt
1 lb Maris Otter
1.5 lb flaked oats (the store was out, but I sent my brother to the grocery store and used Quaker oats instead.)
1 lb CaraMunich II
.75 lb flaked barley
.75 lb flaked wheat
.5 lb Crystal 20
6 oz debittered black malt
1.25 oz Crystal 120

1 lb Piloncillo sugar - start of boil

2.5 oz E. Kent Golding @ 4.8

Wyeast 3538 Leuven Pale Ale cake &
1.5 liter starter from dregs of 3 bottles of 2007 Pannepot

Fermented at 66-68F.

5/25/10 - Racked to secondary (62F). SG: 1.014
8/22/10 - SG: 1.011 aroma: alcohol & raisins. Flavor:raisins, sweet.
10/4/10 - SG: ~1.012 (temp change?) aroma: fruity & sour. flavor: chocolate, dried fruit, a hint of subtle sourness.
11/30/10 - Kegged and force carbed

Brett Pale

It's been several weeks since I posted last. I've been brewing, but haven't posted the last two batches yet since I've been busy with the onset of Spring. Having moved to a new house, we just put in a garden. I also planted some hop rhizomes! 3 Cascade, and 1 Willamette. I put in a Chinook from a friend as well, but it was more of a sprout than a rhizome and died pretty quick.

A fellow brewer that lives nearby recently did an all-brett beer and saved some of the slurry for me. I wasn't sure what I was going to brew until the last minute, but settled on a pale wort with brett in the secondary. I decided to use the grain bill from the Flanders Pale in Jeff Sparrow's Wild Brews. However, since I wasn't going for a sour ale on this one, instead of pitching Roselare or a lambic mix as suggested in the recipe, I used the Wyeast special release Leuven Ale yeast. Once it was done fermenting and transferred to the secondary, I pitched the brett slurry, which was a mixture of Wyeast Bretts - Bruxellensis and Lambicus. It quickly formed a small dusty pellicle after a couple days in the seconday.

Belgian Pale w/ Brett

brewed on: 4/23/10
expected OG: 1.059

Expected IBUs: 27
mash temp: 151F

10 lb Belgian Pils
1lb 14oz German Carahell

2 oz Czech Saaz @ 2.8%
- 60 minutes
1 oz German Hallertauer @ 2.8% - 60 minutes

Primary Yeast:
Wyeast 3538 - Leuven Pale Ale

Secondary Yeast:
slurry of WY Brett Brux & WY Brett Lamb.

Fermented at 68F.

5/4/10 - moved to secondary @ 62F. Added Brett slurry (WY Brett B & WY Brett L)
7/19/10 - added dregs of JP Oro de Calabaza
8/22/10 - SG 1.002 leathery nose w/ hints of pear. Thin body, astringent. Consider adding a bit of oak for vanillins.
10/5/10 - SG @ 1.002 - Sour fruit, brett. Dry, astringent mouthfeel.
1/21/11 - Tasted this while giving some friends a tour of the sour beer carboys the other night. Astringency has backed off some and it is turning out like a nice, somewhat aged Orval. Nice cherry and leather brett character has developed.

2/21/11 - Kegged and force carbing!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Summer Saaz Saison

I absolutely love the Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. I've brewed 2 beers with it now. Although both were takes on saisons, they were very different. The French Saison yeast worked great in both! The first was my Red Wheat Saison. (I'm convincing myself little by little that the local homebrew store gave me something other than red wheat, because the color was much darker than expected and the flavor was different too. Regardless, it turned out to be a nice "export strength" strong brown beer with nice spice character from the yeast.) After giving 3711 a try with great results, I ordered 3 more packs of it to try varying the recipe in various ways. (I really should get better at saving & re-using yeast, but that's a project for another day. By the end of summer I hope to be ready to start culturing yeasts from bottles more regularly and saving them. These will go hand in hand at that point.)

On 4/9 I brewed my second beer with this yeast. Although the Red Wheat Saison has been a big hit, I wanted to scale back the gravity significantly, lighten up the color, and brew a nice refreshing session beer. While weighting out my grain at Northern Brewer, I made a last minute decision to include a few ounces of acidulated malt to crisp the beer up a little more, give it an even more refreshing edge, and really make the spiciness of the wheat pop. The recipe turned out as follows:

Summer Saaz Saison

brewed on: 4/9/10
OG: 1.041 (I was quite happy with this, as I was shooting for 1.040. This makes a few brews in a rom mow where I've just about hit the OG right on the money. That means I've finally gotten my all-grain system dialed in.

Expected IBUs: 29
mash temp: 149F (I undershot this by a bit and ended up pulling off a pan full of the mash, bringing it to a boil and adding it back. This hit the target temp right on.)

6 lbs. Belgian Pilsen Malt
1 lbs 12oz. US White Wheat
4 oz. Acidulated Malt
(mashed for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes)

1.5 oz. Saaz @ 3.9% - 60 minutes
1 oz. Saaz @ 3.9% - 15 minutes
1.5 oz. Saaz @ 3.9% - Flameout
.5 oz. Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 3.5% - Flameout
(I intended this to be an all Saaz beer, but the .5 oz of Hallertauer was sitting in the freezer from a recent brew, so I added that in as well.)

Dry Hops:
1 oz. Saaz @ 3.9%

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Fermented at 66-68F.

4/17 SG @ 1.003. Racked to secondary, added dry hops, and moved to basement (62F).

I'm tempted to try a similar recipe, but with significantly more acid malt to bring the tartness level up to a more "forward" level, perhaps slightly milder than a Berliner Weiss. We'll see. I've got a whole list of saison variations to try in my brewing notebook now!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

All-Brett IPA

My standard IPA recipe is a carry-over from my pre-all grain days because it has always turned out so delicious that I see no reason in fixing what isn't broken. The one thing I do vary is hops. Every time I've made the recipe I try either a different single- or blend of hops for the dry hopping. Among the best were 50/50 Amarillo & Cascade, a 3-Cs blend of Cascade/Colombus/Centennial, a similar blend that included Chinook, and a batch that used mostly whole homegrown hops (both wet and dry.)

I've been meaning to brew an all-brettanomyces IPA for awhile now. Almost since I first started brewing all-brett beers, actually. Victory Wild Devil has been distributed in our part of Wisconsin for a few months now and is one of my favorite American beers. My normal recipe i
s very similar to Hop Devil, so that has been another recent reason it's been on my mind.

Every few months we get together at my friend Dan's house for a group brew day. These are always a blast. It's a good thing I live relatively close though because I've never managed to make it there with my gear in the morning without forgetting something important. This time I had to go home for the yeast. Normally I'd just wait until I got home to pitch it in a case like this, but I picked up yeast for Dan's tripel as well during my trip up to our shiny new Northern Brewer store in Milwaukee recently. (Here are a few of us pictured along with Dan's tripel.)

Now that I'm down to one or two bottles of my last batch of IPA,
I started narrowing in on another standard IPA batch as my project for the brew day. In looking at my to-brew list I keep, the idea of the all-brett IPA popped back up though, coupled with the fact that I've been hording a few smack-packs of various brett strains in the fridge, ya know, in case of emergency. . .

As my older all-brett bottles age, the brett character has really started to come through, especially in the last few months. I wasn't sure what the long-term brett influence would be on these beers for awhile since the yeast tends to behave closer to an ale yeast during primary fermentation. It is not the super-attenuative beast we see in lambics and the like, at least initially. In putting together the ingredients for this recipe, I decided it was time to do an all-grain IPA so as to hopefully provide a bit more food for the yeast during the long-haul. Of course, IPA is usually tastiest at a young, hoppy age, but I'm thinking I'll most likely give this one a longer than usual (for IPA, anyway) aging time of a few months in the carboy before dry-hopping and bottling.

Although I've had great luck with the White Labs brett C strain in all-brett brews, and my White Labs all-brett L is coming along well, I decided to go with a mixed strain pitch of Wyeast Brett bruxellensis & lambicus for this one. (This is what I had in the fridge already, plus I've been curious how they would turn out.)

Normally I make around a 3/4 to 1 liter starter when brewing an all-brett beer. This time, I tried pitching the two packs direc
tly into the wort. I'm actually hoping the yeast stressed a bit. As expected, the lag time was much greater this way, and after a few days I put a heat belt on the bucket to help it along. Fermentation picked up well at that point. (I've always had better luck fermenting all-brett beers of any specific strain above 70F anyway.)

The recipe is as follows:

All-brett I.P.A.

brewed on: 3/20/10
expected OG: 1.064 (In the midst of post-brew frisbee, I spaced on taking a reading, but I've gotten familiar enough with my setup now to have a feel for it, and I'm pretty sure it came out very close to this. This is the main downside of group brew day at someone else's house. It throws off my routine.)

IBUs: 67 - (In the end, I added a couple packs of my dried, whole, homegrown Cascade cones at the last 15 minutes, and last 2 minutes of the boil. Since the beer will be conditioning longer than usual in the secondary to give the brett time to due its thing, I wanted to up the hops to last a bit longer.)
mash temp: 153F

11.5 lbs German pilsener malt
8 oz German Munich
8 oz Crystal 60
8 oz German CaraMunich I
(mashed for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes)

also in the boil:
6 oz Maltodextrin - added partway through the boil

2 oz Centennial @ 9.5% - 60 minutes
.5 oz Kent Golding @ 5.5% - 15 minutes
.5 oz Cascade @ 4.5% - 15 minutes
1 oz Cascade @ 4.5% - 2 minutes

(Also added 2 bags of whole-cone homegrown Cascade. One bag each at 15 & 2 minutes.)

Dry Hops:
2 oz Amarillo

Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis
Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces lambicus

I started the temp around 66F, raised it to 68F after a couple days, then put a heat belt on after about 5 days. Signs of fermentation kicked in stronger at this point, although the airlock bubbles were pretty weak, even at the height (that I noticed, anyway.) A day or 2 after the airlock activity ceased, I removed the heat belt and brought the temp back down to 68F.

As mentioned above, I'm going to hold off awhile on dry-hopping this one to give the 2 brett strains a little more time with the beer in the secondary first.

Jesse & Del pose here with Dave & Del's brews. My kettle is to the right. Jesse brewed a Berliner Weiss with an interesting mostly-no-boil method, aside from a small decoction at one point. I'm hoping he posts a description of his at some point (hint, hint!) , as it sounded different from most methods I've read and is apparently turning out well so far. (Also, a Berliner was the only failed brew I've made so far. I used my standard extract method at the time and pitched lacto & yeast at the same time. The result was a very mild, light beer with no sourness at all. The style is something I'd like another crack at in the future.)

4/5 SG @ 1.010 Moved to basement (62 degrees F.)
4/17 Dry Hopped w/ 2 oz. Amarillo pellets. SG @ 1.008 Tastes much better than the sample 2 weeks ago.
5/18 SG @ 1.006
5/25 SG @ 1.005 - Racked off Amarillo dry hops.
8/22/10 SG 1.001 - aroma: brett & mild hops flavor/aroma
9/4/10 Added 2 oz Cascade dry hops.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dark Night

I set out this morning to brew my third (and most likely final) batch of beer to be fermented on my Bugfarm III yeast cake from Al B of the Burgundian Babblebelt forums. After doing a Flanders Red inspired brew and a Sour English Brown, I wanted to do something REALLY DARK, and REALLY STRONG. Having had crappy luck with the efficiency on my mash tun since I built it, I generally haven't set out to do anything over about 1.060. Even a couple of the 1.060 beers had to have a shot of dry extract to up the gravity a bit before I got a handle on just how poor my efficiency had been. Well, that's all changed now. I fixed my mash tun before my last brew day (under a week ago!) Nonetheless, I didn't set out to do anything super crazy like a barleywine or anything.

If I had to pick a favorite brewery out of everything I've tried from the US, it'd have to be Jolly Pumpkin, hands down. (For the record, we don't get Russian River distributed here. Nor have I gotten my hands on any Lost Abbey yet, among others. This, of course, needs to change, but that's for another day and another post. . .) I started with a recipe based off of JP's Madrugada Obscura, which is a Belgian inspired stout w/ brett clocking in at just over 8% abv. From there, I upped things a bit, shooting for closer to 10%. With all my recent mash tun issues, I wasn't holding my breath on actually hitting anywhere near the mid-1.080s.

After giving my mash a good 90 minutes, I had sparge water heating up and got ready to drain the mash tun, I opened the ball valve and. . . nothing. The grist was ground a little finer than usual, and something gummy had gotten through the false bottom and actually plugged up the ball valve. In the end it wasn't as big a deal as I was worried it'd be. With my wife's help we poured the entire mash into the kettle, unstuck and rinsed out the tun/valve, and dumped everything back in. A bit of vorlauf and everything went fine. I *did* have to heat up new sparge water since we dumped it to free up the big kettle, but it wasn't a problem. That said, I'm going to see if I can fine some appropriate screen at the hardware store to cut to match the false bottom to give it a finer mesh in the future.

Everything went smoothly from there out, although the boil was longer than usual since I used a higher water/grain ratio than usual (1.4qts/lb.) In the end, my final gravity reading really surprised me! I ended up with a 1.105 batch of beer!

I racked my Sour English Brown into a secondary carboy and pitched this new (and taste, I might add) wort onto the Bugfarm yeastcake. I've gotta admit though, I'm still debating boiling a bit more water to dilute it a bit. Between the 20+ sacch, brett, lacto, pedios, and even kombucha, I don't doubt that it has the capability to take this one down relatively low, but I'm still just floored it ended up this much higher than I expected! Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada Obscura is 8.1% abv, I was shooting for around 10% and now my expected abv is in the 11.5-12% range! I'm going to sleep on this decision. I don't think it'll hurt it too much, should I decide to boil/add more water if I wait until tomorrow at this point. In the meantime, here's the recipe:

Dark Night

brewed on: 2/14/10
expected OG: 1.085
actual OG: 1.105
IBUs: 34
mash temp: 150F

9 lbs Belgian pilsener malt
2 lbs UK roasted barley
2 lbs US 2-row malt
1.5 lbs german Munich malt
1.25 lbs Belgian pale wheat malt
9 oz US Crystal 80L malt
5 oz debittered black malt
2oz German melanoidin malt

in boil (diluted in a bit of boiling water on stove, then added to boil):
12 oz turbinado sugar
7 oz honey
5 oz table sugar
5 oz brown sugar

0.6oz US Nugget @ 13.5%
1.5oz UK Fuggles @ 4%

Al B's Bugfarm III

Ferment at ambient temp (mid-60s F)

2/16 - Craziest primary ferment I've had. The airlock is going crazy, even in a bucket that I'm pretty sure normally has little leaks in the lid seal. The temp is 6-8F higher than the ambient room temperature in our living room as well, whereas most buckets I have going out there get maybe a couple degrees higher tops! The difference is great enough that the bucket actually feels warm to the touch.

2/17 - Temp up to 74F. Moved to basement (Ambient temp 62F.)
2/22 - SG @ 1.040. Sample has a slight sourness bordering on fruity that is offset by the flavor & mouthfeel of chocolate syrup.
3/23 - SG @ 1.32. Sample is *very* sour, but the thick body and sweetness balances it. There is an intense chocolate taste that feels completely separate from the sourness to me, but I think the added oak (later) and time will bring these competing elements together while it ages.
5/1 Topped off with a little under a gallon of wort for the 'Archaic' dark strong I brewed.
5/18 1.033 aroma: chocolate, sour, hints of roasted coffee; taste: dark fruit, tart, chocolate, roasted coffee
8/22/10 - SG: 1.017 aroma: roasted coffee. flavor: roast, tart, chocolate, coffee

add French & Hungarian oak?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Red Saison

After having to do a few extract batches, I finally fixed my mash tun yesterday. The stainless steel braid I was using was way too long and, when stirred, the mash grain would get underneath it and prop it way up on an angle so I'd get terrible efficiency. I got to go check out the new Northern Brewer store nearby in Milwaukee recently and picked up a false bottom. After being non-functional for the last week due to my eye injury I finally felt up to brewing. Although I was really hoping to do a strong dark batch to use with the 3rd generation of my Al B's Bugfarm3 yeast cake, I decided on something simpler (and cheaper) as a test run for the mash tun repairs.

What I decided on in the end was a pretty straightforward saison based on the "classic version" recipe in Farmhouse Ales. I did make a few tweaks though. For this one I used red wheat rather than a pale wheat malt for a darker color, they were out of Saaz at the local homebrew store so I replaced it with Spalt for a portion of the finishing hops, and I added 8oz of flaked barley to up the head retention. Once signs of primary fermentation are starting to die down I'll add 10oz of table sugar to help dry it out. Also, I've really been wanting to try the Wyeast French Saison yeast, so this was a great opportunity.

I started this ferment out at ambient temperature (high 60s F) in our house, but after I add the sugar I'll use the new heat belt I picked up to boost it up towards about 80F. Here's the recipe:

Red Saison

brewed on: 2/8/10
expected OG: 1.065 (actual was a few points lower)
IBUs: 24
mash temp: 152F

10 lbs Pilsener Malt
1.5 lbs Red Wheat Malt
8oz Flaked Barley

1.2 Kent Golding @ 5% - 60 minutes
.6 Kent Golding @ 5% - 15 minutes
.4 Kent Golding - 2 minutes
.4 Styrian Golding - 2 minutes
.4 Spalt - 2 minutes

Wyeast French Saison

Sugar Addition:
10oz white table sugar - after primary fermentation dies down

Ferment at ambient temp (mid-60s F)

Raise temp to 80F with heat belt and add sugar

I used a bit of rice hulls in the mash due to the wheat and flaked barley, but still got a bit of a stuck sparge. It wasn't a big deal and was easily remedied. I was a bit lower than I'd hoped on my mash temp, so I boiled up another gallon of water and added it until I brought it up to 152. My biggest gripe with the new false bottom is that it allows more crap to get through from the grain bed. I'll have to try and do a better vorlauf next time and see how it goes.The efficiency was still a few points lower than I'd hoped, but was much better than the ss braid I was using before. I actually took my OG reading while the wort was still pretty hot then adjusted for the temperature, so for all I know I actually hit my OG right on and just didn't adjust right. Note to self: Next time cool it off then check again to see how close the math on the temp correction is.

2/16 - Boiled 10 oz white table sugar in 2.5 c. water. Added to primary bucket & applied heat belt.

2/21 - SG @ 1.001! The sugar character/dryness & wheat both come through nicely, but not overdone. Yeast character is great! I'm super impressed with the Wyeast French Saison strain! Bitterness seems a little high, but this is a hydrometer sample, so that should mellow a bit with some bottle conditioning.
- Moving to basement (60-62F) for a few days until ready to bottle.
-2/27 - FG 1.001. Bottled w/ 5 oz corn sugar. Bitterness still seems a tad high, but not unpleasantly so.
-3/11 - Bottles are *super* carbed at room temp. Tossed the entire 2 cases in the fridge to help bring the foaming down and hopefully avoid bottle bombs!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

English Brown and A Visit to the Emergency Room

It started out as a normal enough brew day. My friend Jesse came over to the new house to brew together. He put together a Belgian Golden Strong AG recipe with a twist. We've both been excited about trying wine yeast for a few ales, either solo or blended with an ale yeast. Jesse did a very straightforward base malt grain bill and tossed in an ale yeast to get the fermentation started. As his beer ferments, he's going to add the wine yeast (which should take over the ale yeast) along with some sugar additions. I'm excited to try it when it's done, but will leave the details to him in case he decides to blog about it elsewhere.

I'm in the middle of fixing my mash tun. I just picked up a new false bottom from our awesome new Milwaukee area Northern Brewer store! (I'm all about supporting local business, and we have some wonderful people running a nice homebrew store, Hop To It, here in Racine as well. Hop To It hosts our local club meetings in the basement as well, which is cool.) Anyway, as a result of the mash tun repairs in progress, I did another batch of the extract Northern English Brown recipe I put together in the meantime. In my previous post I used the same recipe, but with my Bugfarm III yeast cake. This time, I used the White Labs Irish Ale Yeast I had originally intended for the recipe.

As a side note, I picked up some Victory Wild Devil that we enjoyed along with some of Jesse's recent Bitter he brewed. Both were tasty and I'm looking forward to the rest of the Wild Devil bottles currently in our cellar. While brewing I also baked my first batch of sourdough bread with a starter I made a week beforehand. In the end it wasn't very sour, but I didn't give the dough more than 2-3 hours to rise. Next time I'll let it rise overnight to give the bugs more time to do their dance. All in all it was still yummy bread though.

I'd love to say the brew day was otherwise uneventful, but that was not to be! I did manage to break our nice glass mixing bowl while baking and cut my finger on the resulting glass shards. Jesse also cut a finger on his brewing equipment. Here's where things started getting messy. Jesse's wort was chilling in the basement with my immersion chiller, and my batch was in its last few minutes of the boil (I started brewing significantly later than he did since he was doing all-grain. That worked out fine though with time to bake and cook up some thai yellow curry with pork for lunch.) I took my spent grain to the backyard to dump it for the critters. February in Wisconsin isn't the easiest time of year for animals to find food I'm sure. As I turned to go back out front I managed to turn eye-first into a low hanging pine tree branch! I'm not talking a little poke either, this batch of needles got me full on in the eye. With one eye closed, we managed to haul my kettle downstairs to get it chilled. (Jesse burnt his hand on the steam on the way down.) We ended up sitting in the bathroom trying to rinse out my eye and rub aloe (luckily my wife keeps a couple plants of it growing in the house year round) on Jesse's burns while we each already had a bandaged finger! I couldn't help but laugh. . .

After waiting about an hour with no improvement, with both beers chilled and in their respective fermenters, I had Jesse drop me off at the local Emergency Room on his way home. In the end I was diagnosed with a decent sized corneal abrasion right in the center of my right eye. They sent me home with a big eye patch on. Now, here I am one week, 2 ER visits, and 3 ophthalmologist appointments later, finally able to see well enough to type this article. I'll spare the medical details, but it's been a royal p.i.t.a. All I wanted was a quick brown ale to restock the cellar a bit since I've been spending so many brew sessions lately on sours that won't be done for over a year, and in the end I have an extract batch that will (assuming I figured out the deductibles right for our health insurance) have cost around $400. I know extract batches tend to run a bit more expensive, but that's overkill!

I ended up having my wife pitch the yeast for me later that night since I was in bed on the verge of temporary blindness when she got home, but left it in our 60F basement for the first night. After longer than usual lag time I moved it upstairs where it is more like 66-67 right now.

The only other interesting thing to come out of this was that I really was pretty much non-functional for several days and couldn't even see well enough to get down the stairs. As a result, I left my big brewpot uncleaned witht he dregs of the wort in it sitting in the basement for about 4 nights. (I made sure to at least give everything that comes near the wort post-boil its usual cleaning/sanitization before heading out to the hospital.) When I went down to clean out the pot this week the little bit of wort sludge had, probably obviously by now, grown an interesting bacterial pellicle and started to spontaneously ferment. While dumping it down the drain, I got a good wiff of it and though it still smelled somewhat sweet it also had a really neat overall odor, nothing at all off-putting. I'm tempted now to try a spontaneous basement fermentation down the road with a straighforward recipe in an open bucket, at least to begin with.

I just posted the brown ale recipe in the previous post as part of the Sour English Brown, but here it is again with the few changes that apply to this batch:

Northern English Brown

brewed on: 1/31/10
OG: (I didn't take a reading on this one due to my eye injury, but I estimate it was around 1.044 due to the small change in amount of extract used.)

12 oz Special Roast Malt
8 oz Crystal 40L Malt
8 oz Victory Malt
4 oz Pale Chocolate Malt
6 lbs Extra Light liquid extract

1.2 oz Kent Golding @ 5.1% - 60 minutes
.5 oz German Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 3% - 5 minutes

WLP 004 Irish Ale Yeast

Steep grains in 1 gallon for 3 minutes at 154F.
Sparge with gallon or so.
Bring 6-7 gallons (enough to end up with just over 5 gallons) of water to boil, add extract & hops as scheduled.

Pitched at ~60F with little activity. Raised to 66F after 2 days & activity picked up.

2/14 - Moved to basement where temp is around 60-62F.
2/21 - SG @ 1.012. Delicious. Sample had a malty nuttiness w/ slight sweetness, (but not syrupy or showing "extract" twinges.) Can't wait to get this bottled and carbed.
2/27 - FG 1.012. Bottled w/ 3.25oz corn sugar.