Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dark Strong Funky Belgian Ale with Spices

I've been intrigued by the Dark Funky Saison recipes that Mike over at The Mad Fermentationist has posted annually over the past few years. With a couple sour beer buckets free, I decided spur of the moment to try making one of them on Sunday. My friend Jim just happened to be brewing a decocted German pils, so I headed over to his place with my brewing gear and set up shop to brew together.

Mike's post was for a 15 gallon batch done as a group brew, so I scaled everything down a bit. I also made a few other changes. I got rid of the light extract, but I added 1# of D2 dark candi syrup. I also didn't have a spare bottle of red wine handy, so after chopping up my dates and caramelizing them in a tiny bit of wort, I deglazed them with more wort, then added the entire mixture into the boil. Since the recipe used under an ounce of hops, I just transferred everything, dates and all, into the primary. I figure it'll just be a bit of extra food for the bugs. I did up the hops a bit, but not terribly much. Since Mike mentioned the black cardamom he used was a bit strong, I didn't lower the spice amount, but I did increase the hops to balance it a bit more. We'll see how that works out. It's only a few IBUs difference anyway.

I also used different yeast. Mike used WY 3711 French Saison (one of my favorite strains.) Our LHBS has a tendency to have some pretty old yeast sometimes, and the newest saison strain of any type that they had in was almost a year old, with several from '09 even. . . I don't like using old yeast like that even in a starter in most cases, but especially since I was brewing on short notice, I wasn't about to pitch an old pack. Nor did I have time to drive up to Northern Brewer for fresh yeast. Luckily, they had a pack of T-58 dry yeast left, so I picked that up in place of the 3711. While it isn't a saison yeast per se, I've been curious to try T-58 for awhile and this seemed like a good opportunity. With sour dregs and spices getting added, the base yeast should be less exposed anyway.

I also subbed a couple specialty malts for things I had on hand.

The recipe I used was as follows:

Dark Strong Funky Belgian with Spices
brewed on: 1/16/11
OG: 1.098
IBUs: 20 IBUs
mash temp: 154F
expected color: 31.5 SRM

13 lb Belgian Pils Malt

11 oz CaraMunich II
6.5 oz Carastan
6.5 oz Special B
5.5 oz Pale Chocolate
4.5 Coffee Malt
4.5 US Crystal 90L
2.25 oz Carapils
2.25 oz Carafa II
2.25 oz Flaked Wheat


1 lb D2 Dark Belgian Candi Syrup - 60 minutes
7oz chopped Dates, caramelized in a pan, deglazed with wort - 60 minutes
1g Black Cardamom seeds, ground - 2 minutes

Hops (loose pellets):
0.7 oz Amarillo @ 9.1% - 60 minutes


Dregs (in primary):
Drei Fonteinen Oude Gueuze
De Dolle Oerbier
Jolly Pumpkin Bam

I was expecting about 1.088 OG, but that was without taking the dates into account. They upped the gravity significantly! This is apparently a winter of strong beer brewing for me with a strong old ale, English barleywine, and this Dark Strong Belgian. I may even do one more barleywine yet this winter since the one I brewed is destined for our group red wine barrel.

2/21/11 - SG @ 1.022 Dark brown and very opaque. Not much sourness yet. Cardamom is present but not too overpowering. A bit boozy, but more warming than distracting. Very mild raisiny background. Should be interesting with age.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Flanders Red - New Years 2011

My friend Bob decided to start a yearly tradition of brewing a barleywine every New Years Day. I like it! Not only is it sort of a cool way to ring in the New Year, but it's also starting the year off enjoying the day with friends. Our group brew sessions are always a lot of fun.

However, having brewed a Strong Old Ale *and* an English Barleywine for our barrel project already, I didn't brew a barleywine. I had some Bugfarm4 from East Coast Yeast in the fridge and it was getting past time to put it to use. I grew it up a bit in a 1 liter starter for a week to get it healthy again, and then brewed a Flanders Red. I brewed my first Flanders almost exactly a year ago, at another group brew with other friends, at the end of December 2009. So, in lieu of a third huge abv beer in the fermentor, I figured I can either stick with brewing a Flanders once a year, or just start doing the yearly barleywine next year. Either way, we had a great time.

We were also joined by other friends, Tony C and Tony B. Tony C was brewing his barrel barleywine and Tony B brewed an ESB (yeast starter beer for his barrel brew.) Our friend Jim and his son, a Marine in town for the holidays, stopped by as well. Jim's son recently brewed his first extract-kit IPA and was getting in some quality all-grain observation time while on leave at home.

Both Tonys also grilled venison from their recent deer hunting trip. I've gotta say the venison was some of the best meat I've had in a long, long time. Thanks guys!!!

After a string of 2 unseasonably warm days/nights, Mother Nature decided to lower the thermostat on us for New Years Day and we got to brew outside in 19F weather! We at least took shelter in a detached garage and there were 4 burners running much of the time which provided some "heat" although heat may be an overstatement! Still, it was much better than brewing in 90F+ humid summer weather! (Next time, I vote we at least do this in my attached garage where we can run out to check things from time to time. . .)

Aside from the grilling & brewing, we also had many delicious beers. I broke out a bottle of de Struise's Black Albert, one of my last 3 bottles of award winning all-brett C beer, as well as all-brett L w/ wine & cherries, a bottle of one of The Bruery's Christmas beers (we all agreed this one was way too sweet,) and one of my Archaic beers using cultured up Pannepot 2007 dregs. Others brought many of their homebrews and some interesting commercial beers as well.

To end the day, another friend, Jesse, stopped by my place just after we finished brewing and the two of us tried several Baltic Porters we'd been waiting to sample side-by-side. And then I went to bed at 6pm for several hours. . .

This year's Flanders Red recipe is almost the same as last year's, the recipe from Wild Brews, but last year I decided to add some raw sugar for whatever (dumb) reason. In retrospect, I think I just didn't have much sour brewing experience a year ago. Maybe I did it to combat the terrible efficiency I was getting still, prior to fixing my mash tun. Regardless, I got rid of the sugar addition and brewed it this year. Last year's batch used Bugfarm3 and is getting really good as of the last sample I took. This year's is the newer Bugfarm4. I'm anxious to try Al's Flemish Ale blend whenever he releases that via East Coast Yeast as well. Here's the Flanders recipe:

Flanders Red - #2

brewed on: 1/1/11
OG: 1.053
IBUs: 12 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
expected color:13.1 SRM

5.5 lbs. Vienna malt
2.25 lbs. Flaked Corn
1 lb. German Carahell
1 lb. Belgian Caravienna
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic malt
6oz. Belgian Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
0.6 oz Styrian Goldings @ 5.2% - 60 minutes

slurry from 1 liter starter of ECY Bugfarm4

2/21/11 - SG @ 1.006. Nice tartness. Acidity reminiscent of green apple, but more intense. (Not green apple flavor though.) Moved to basement.

BOMB barrel #2

Here are a few photos of our latest BOMB (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers) barrel. It is a French oak barrel that help California Zinfandel. This is the info about it, according to the barrel maker's website:

Your Barrel Description:
Buttery and fatty.


The Tronçais cask:

Made from oak from the forest of the same name, where some trees are over 300 years old, and the environment is rich with 85 natural springs.

The Tronçais cask will provide your wine with a generous and opulent character, and a natural buttery and fatty expression.

The natural slight potential of vanillin in the wood provides light vanilla notes.

Performance : Opulent and generous

This last photo features Kevin, whose basement will house this barrel, when the barrel arrived.

Old Stone Thrower English Barleywine

As I mentioned in my last post, we're brewing an English Barleywine for our latest BOMB barrel brew. We went with the Timothy Taylor strain of yeast (although I'd have preferred something more attenuative personally.) This beer is destined for a French oak red Zinfandel barrel in a couple weeks and I can't wait. We got the barrel from Stone's Throw winery in Door COunty, WI, so we've dubbed the first beer to go into it Old Stone Thrower in honor of the winery.

Since I've neglected my posting duties a bit lately, this beer has already been in the primary for a week. This yeast strain is definitely an English top-cropping variety, as it crawls up the bucket almost every time I rouse it, and has come out/filled up the airlock twice this week already! Others in our group have had similar experiences with it. I don't know how this yeast strain will turn out with a barleywine, but it'll be fun regardless. I know it definitely isn't normally used for such big beers though. The Timothy Taylor website lists their strongest beers as clocking in at 4.3%
abv. I should also mention that while the recipe was written for 65% efficiency, lower than mine even for big beers, I neglected to scale it down mostly on purpose since we had a few other batches come in on the low side for OG. Here is our barleywine recipe:

Old Stone Thrower English Barleywine

brewed on: 12/27/10
OG: 1.095
IBUs: 57 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
color:13.7 SRM

19 lbs Marris Otter
1 lb UK Dark Crystal (one of my favorite movies comes to mind whenever I use this grain!)

Hops (all loose pellets):
1.4 oz Nugget @ 11% - 60 minutes
2 oz. WIllamette @ 3.7% - 25 minutes
1 oz. Fuggle @ 5.1% - 25 minutes

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire yeast cake from this sort-of ESB starter batch

90 minute boil


Once again I've neglected my posting duties for longer than I'd prefer. We recently picked up our second barrel for the BOMB (Barrel of Monkeys Brewers) barrel group I helped start. The plan (hope) with this one is to do at least a couple clean beers before the barrel sours, intentionally or not. This barrel is a red wine barrel, Zin specifically. We bought it from Stone's Throw winery in Door County, WI and it is a thing of beauty. I will have to dig out some photos and post them after this as I don't have them immediately handy.

We decided on an English style barleywine for the first batch in this barrel using 1496 West Yorkshire yeast, a special limited release from Wyeast which is supposedly the Timothy Taylor strain. Several friends have used it for smaller beers with good results. I would have preferred something a bit more attenuative, but most of the guys wanted to try this strain so I don't mind.

As a starter beer to build up some yeast, I brewed an ESB. This is one of the first mid-gravity English style beers I've brewed since I was on a mostly belgian/wild ale kick for quite awhile. (I'm still mixing in plenty of sours and I have no doubt the saisons will flow again come Spring.) Since I've neglected posting for awhile, this beer is already on tap. I'm not super fond of it as an ESB, as it has a small amount of banana going on which really doesn't fit, but overall it is a fine everyday drinking beer for at home and I'm enjoying it well enough in that capacity. In the end, it was something I threw together with the malt & hops I had on hand, so I'd change a lot next time. For example, I didn't even use Marris Otter. I used Belgian Pale malt and some biscuit to add maltiness instead, since I have some of the Pale from a bulk order handy still. Anyway, here is the recipe:

Jay's sort-of ESB

brewed on: 12/20/10
OG: 1.054
IBUs: 40 IBUs
mash temp: 152F

9 lbs. Belgian Pale malt
1 lb. UK Carastan
1 lb. Biscuit malt
3 oz. Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
1 oz Northern Brewer @ 9.4% - 60 minutes
1 oz UK Fuggle @ 4.2% - 10 minutes
1 oz US Willamette @ 3.7% - flameout

1 liter starter - Wyeast 1496 West Yorkshire strain

12/27/10 - kegged. FG - 1.012.

This yeast is a true top-cropping strain. After the main fermentation finished, it still had a huge mat of floating, krausen-like yeast on top of the beer. It may have knocked another point or 2 off the beer yet, but I needed the yeast for my barrel barleywine, so I kegged it since it was already on the low end of the ESB FG range.