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