Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: AmillenniALE Gone Wild

Batch #3... So many firsts. My first recipe. My first partial mash. My first starter. My first Belgian. My first Wild hair... at bottling, after adding the priming sugar, I thought, this would be awesome with Brett. I diverted a gallon to a glass jug I had and hit it with the dregs of Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale and Matilda along with some DME. The beer had finsihed at 1.021. I also added some American Oak, medium toast. After about 7 months, I didn't notice much Brett funk, and a lot of oak, so I moved it to a new jug, hit it with a starter of the dregs of Russian River Consecration and went sour and wild with it. After another 5 months, it was nice and sour, oaky, finished at 1.002 and was highly oxidized, but I bottled it anyways, and boy am I glad I did. Sucks that I only got a 12 pack of it though.

Look: This beer pours a super clear amber with a very thin beige bubbly head that fades quick and leaves thin lacing and legs.

Aroma: Smells of cherry pie and barnyard funk, lots of Brett in the nose, with red wine, oak, light vinegar twang, wet cardboard from the oxidation, black pepper and clove spiciness.

Taste: Sour hits the palate first, lactic, and a sharp acetic vinegar, followed by oak and an alcohol that is smooth yet vacates your sinus cavity on the exhale. Spiciness comes next, with fruits, cherries, and Brett funk, oxidized, and a spicy finish.

Mouthfeel: The beer is light and thin, carbonation is lacking, bone dry finish and very tart, but not puckering, astringent and tannic from the oak in a nice way, as it warms it leaves an astringent bitterness in the finish.

Overall: Very nice sour. Very glad at how this extract/first partial mash, first recipe, shoot-from-the-hip, last minute, single gallon, evolving-experiment turned out. The sourness is clean and sharp, a nice blend of lactic and acetic acids, not too overdone, but nicely sour. The dry finish, tannins, and sourness with the low IBUs works well here, and creates a great finish. The Brett is very complex and enjoyable, and the spicy alcohol is subtle for being about 9% with no residual sugar to balance it. Definitely needs more carbonation to help with the thin body and to help all the flavors and aromas pop as well as to help cleanse the palate after each sip. Oxidation is to be expected and considering the high amount of it at bottling, I'm surprised (and excited) at how restrained it is now.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wet Cardboard Stinks!

After all the effort to brew a clean beer after all the infections, after brewing up a new recipe, after finding that the conical was still infected, after deciding to sour the whole batch and fermenter for good, after working up a great plan, wet cardboard! The conical is opaque so I can't see what is going on inside. Last night I popped the top to see if any progress had been made in 5 days (no, it hadn't), to find an odd smell. I flipped a couple of the oak cubes over since they had some yeast slurry on top of them, and when I pulled my hand back it hit me... oxidized! The conical also holds about 8.5 gallons, so 3 gallons of beer and 5.5 gallons of head space in a plastic conical is not a good thing. I pulled a sample and the taste is the same, wet cardboard. I grabbed as many 2L soda bottles (PET just like Better Bottles) as I could and Oxicleaned them quick, then ran off the beer into them and sealed them up in an attempt to save it from a total bust, we'll see if that worked in about 5 months when I reopen them for gravity and sampling. If not, then I can use them to inoculate other sours. If so, we proceed as planned. I am hoping for the latter.

BTW, the smell of oxidized beer does not wash off easily, nor does it make for a good night's rest when you put your hand near your face.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Yogurt... In My Beer?

So much cleaning, so much sanitizing, so much stressing about whether I would ever be able to brew a clean beer again, and then the inevitable happens... another infected batch. I had stripped apart my conical, soaked it in PBW and hot water for over a day, and then left it in bleach for nearly a week. After brewing up 8 gallons of Blonde Ale to split between the conical and my Better Bottle (that had housed the infection as well) as a test to see if I had rid myself of it, I let them both ferment for a week. I pulled samples of both of them to taste, smell, and check the gravity. What I found from that conical was so much different than the Better Bottle. Dull, lifeless, dirty fruit, watery, and 3 points lower, diagnosis: INFECTED! With that, I resigned my efforts to salvage the fermenter, after all I had done, it was to no avail, and thus, a new fermenter for brewing up sours was born. And with all my renewed passions towards sours, it happened at just the right time. I was already planning on souring half the batch anyways, this just made it easier.

I pulled a gallon of the beer from the ball valve that went straight into a glass jug that had housed my Brett starter before it went into the leftover wort from this brew session, and had yet to be cleaned. Given a few months, the Brett should build up a nice pellicle and funk it up quite a bit. In the conical, I added a 1/4 cup of a starter I had built up from the dregs of Russian River's Consecration last summer, as well as a 1/4 cup of the Lambic I brewed last September using yeast I cultured from blackberries growing wild in my neighbor's backyard. I tossed in about 8 cubes of French Oak that were previously used by a winery in Lodi, CA to revive an old barrel as well. I also have a starter from RR Supplication that I won't be adding, at least not right now, because there is a lot of head space in that vessel right now and that culture has some definite acetobacter from when I used it in a bucket on another brew.

Just for the fun of it, I also made a 1L starter with 750ml water and 250ml Apple Juice, and 100g DME, that I cooled to 115*F, and pitched in 1/3 a serving Zoe Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt, which I inserted my temp control probe into and set it to 115*F wrapped in the heating blanket I received from a friend. 3 days later, the temp is constant at about 39*C (~100*F). When I poured a sample it fizzed like Alkaseltzer, which is good, that means carbonation, which means that something is going on. A sniff gives hints of yogurt, clean, nothing off in the aroma. A taste gives off sour apples, and a light yogurt twang. I effectively cultured Lacto from Greek Yogurt! After a few more days, I added 3/4 gallons of water mixed with 1.25# Clover Honey to bring it up to 4L, and give it a week or so at 100*F. Once this gallon of Lacto fermented Mead is ready to go, I will add it to the main Blonde Ale in the conical, along with another 1.25# of Clover Honey in a gallon of water, and let her ride for a good 6-8 months. Then I will add back in the gallon of Brett only portion, and hit it with 2-3# of fresh Apricots this Summer. This will bring the total volume of beer up to 6 gallons, with a new OG of 1.041 (1.037 prior to honey), and a FG of near 1.002 (or less) for a 5% ABV oak aged, wild Honey Blonde Ale.

Here's to innovation and infections!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: Gummy Bears - Simple Saison

I love Saisons. Real ones. Light, refreshing, rustic, big spices and big fruits, dry, hoppy, packed with flavor and aroma, with a clean finish that draws you back for more. I love them made with the 3724 DuPont strain, not so much on the French Saison yeast that so many use to avoid the care needed for the DuPont. Enter the 3726 Farmhouse Ale strain that Wyeast releases only every 3 years. On this beer I had to try it before it left. And I was not disappointed. 1 week fermentation took the beer to 1.008, no stalling, no problems, 76*F controlled fermentation, great Saison. This beer is a simple recipe, 41% Great Western Pale Malt, 41% Weyermann Pils, 18% German Dark Wheat Malt, 147*F mash for 75 minutes, 1 tsp Gypsum and 1 tsp Calcium Chloride (split 3/8 each in mash, 5/8 each in boil). Bittered with 0.4 oz of Seuz at 45 minutes, 0.6 oz Styrian Bobek at 10 minutes, and a blend of 0.4 oz Bobek, 0.5 oz German Saphir, and 0.5 oz Hallertau Mittelfruh at FO for a total of 20 IBUs. The beer didn’t finish as low as I had hoped, but with the combination of the tartness of the yeast, the bitterness, and the acidic bite from the high carbonation, along with the sulfates, it turned out perfect.

Look: Pours a deep gold w/ rustic orange burnish, big frothy pure white head that fades slow to a whispy layer atop and a thin ring along the sides. Nice bubbly carbonation. Decent lacing.

Aroma: Lots of fruits, pears, bananas, strawberries, apples, white pepper, cloves, ginger, grass, hay,
floral, rosemary.

Taste: Pepper, fruity, lychee, rosemary, ginger, spicy bite, lite floral, refreshing and crisp, grainy, yeasty.

Mouthfeel: Fizzy, dry, light acidic bite, spicy finish, bitterness is there, but not overly done, balanced between bitter, dry, acidic, and sweet.

Overall: Very good Saison, big fruits and spices. Herbs and florals from the hops shine. Very dry and light, bitterness and carbonic acid play well together for a perfect finish. Lacing and head retention could be boosted some, but very well crafted Farmhouse Ale. Rustic, fruity, spicy, floral, dry, bitter, hoppy, grainy, light, crisp, tart, refreshing, as it should be.

Review: Heart Murmur - Atrium

It is always fun to test different ingredients and how they work and produce different attributes. A single malt, a single hop, a single yeast strain. Different combinations can produce different results. In this case, a single change of yeast strain produces vastly different results. One batch of wort, 100% Great Western Pale Malt, 3.0 oz of EKG hops to finish the beer (Magnum for bittering), to make 8 gallons of 1.052 wort, split two-ways. One received WY 1469 West Yorkshire, this one WY 1968 London ESB. It is amazing how the two yeast produced 2 vastly different beers, one malty, complex, hoppy, but not bitter, medium body, yet dry and light on the tongue; very impressive beer. As the following review shows, the second yeast, not so much, bitterness is pronounced, as are the hops, no malt character at all, dry, thinnish, light fruity esters, phenols, acetaldehyde. As with the West Yorkshire, the name comes from a flutter in a heart test called a Heart Murmur, which triggered some more tests; seeing as I was using all EKG hops, I decided to run with that as the name. Atrium comes from the location of the heart, in the lower section of the heart as is London in England when compared to West Yorkshire (the yeast for the other half of the beer).

Look: Pours a light orange with 1/2 finger pure white head, brilliant clarity, head fades slow to a thick cap that sticks around and leaves a great lace throughout.

Aroma: Hoppy, grassy, floral hops, light nuttiness, not much malt character, hoppiness is pronounced. Light banana esters, spicy.

Taste: Tastes of hops, floral, spicy phenols upfront and carry through, lots of cloves and pepper, clean malt but not much more. Banana, and some other light fruitiness. Phenols dominate the palate, covers up what should be there, wish there was more of a malt backbone.

Mouthfeel: Bitterness is pronounced, malt is missing, light, somewhat bland and watery, dry phenolic finish with a lasting bitterness.  Acetaldehyde leaves a sticky mouthfeel, and astringent as well.

Overall: Not at all the blend of malt and hops, complex, balanced beer that the same wort produced with the West Yorkshire Yeast. Amazing how different these beers turned out. This beer has the bitterness and tons of flawed fermentation characters thanks to the brewery pitch of hop sludge. The more I drink this version, the more I want to pour it out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Heart Murmur - Ventricle

I honestly am very impressed with this brew. The more I drink it, the more I think it needs to become my house beer. It's simple, light, balanced, and delicious. It's actually quite complex for being only one malt and one hop. I will be posting a second review of "this beer" soon. I brewed 8 gallons of this wort and split it to 2 different Better Bottles and pitched 2 different yeast strains. This beer is all Great Western Pale Malt (3L) to 1.052, mashed for 1 hour @ 147*F. It has a bittering charge of 1oz Magnums for 60 minutes, and an ounce each of EKGs @ 15, 5, and FO (8 gallons). FG was 1.009 for an ABV of 5.7%. This batch was fermented w/ WY 1469 West Yorkshire. During an EKG for my blood pressure spike a few months ago, there was a flutter in the test called a Heart Murmur, which triggered some more tests; seeing as I was using all EKG hops, I decided to run with that as the name. Ventricle comes from the location of the heart, the ventricle is in the lower section of the heart as is West Yorkshire in England when compared to London (London ESB was the yeast for the other half of the beer).

Appearance: Pours a hazy golden-orange with a tight, pure white 1/2 finger head that persists and fades to a thick cap on top. Lacing is thick and sticks nice along the top.

Aroma: Smells of peaches, nectarines, and bananas, floral hops, faint citrus fruits, grassy, white pepper, bread dough, yeast, honey, herbal.

Taste: Taste mirrors the nose, floral hops, fruity, not yet ripe apricots, spicy, grassy hops, bread dough and yeast, floral alcohol, honey.

Mouthfeel: Medium-Light body, light on the tongue but not thin, dry finish, lingering bitterness in the back of the throat. Crisp and refreshing. Carbonation is light.

Overall: Very impressed. Great marriage of malt and hops, complex hop and malt character for a SmAsH brew, yeast creates an amazing fruity bouquet and draws out a depth to the malt, the bitterness is subdued, yet balances well with the dry finish. Very refreshing. The yeast haze is not to style, but I could care less about clarity.

Friday, March 9, 2012

If It's Infected, Why Not Infect It?

I've been thinking a lot about sours and wild brews lately, much of this is from the infections in 8 batches and the despair that I may not be able to brew clean beers again. Then a shipment of Cantillon came in and I was able to get a bottle of 1900 and Rose de Gambrinus and a renewed desire to brew sours on purpose arose. I have the American Blonde going in my fermenters right now, and was able to get an extra 2.5 gallons of wort out of it which got straight Brett B from a starter I had made from Orval (huge pelicle right now). I am planning on diverting 3-4 gallons of the Blonde to another fermenter for souring upon bottling, some with oak, some with Apricots, all with a blend of bugs. This new joy for sours got me thinking... I have a case of infected stout that I am not going to drink... why not sour it all? So I did. Last night I popped the top on the whole case of gushers and poured them into 2 - 1 gallon glass jugs. The foaming was outrageous; it took 3 shots of foam control in each jug to get them full. Once I got them filled I hit them each with a bug blend I have of Lacto, Pedio, and Bretts. One of the jugs overflowed when I hit it with the solution. Both jugs were still throwing off tons of CO2 10 hours later (not too worried about oxidizing these since the airlocks are more active then the fermenting Blondes). I'll give them a few months to go wild and see what comes of it. If they turn out to be drain pours then I've lost nothing but part of an evening and a few drops of foam control. If they turn out to be awesome wilds, then great, glad I did it and saved a batch of beer that was just going to get poured out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Laminated Envelope

After all of the infections in my past 8 batches, then cleaning and sanitizing all the equipment, it was finally time to test it. I made some new adjustments to my brew house to help facilitate the brewday as well. I split my cold and hot water lines for my laundry and added Fresh Water hoses to it so I have water in the brew house now (no more running back and forth to the bathroom for strike and sparge water, or cleaning). I also got some plastic 4.5 cup measuring cups for hops. While my strike water was heating, I thought it best to calibrate my thermometer only to find it was 7*F off, meaning that on the past few batches when I thought I was mashing at 147*F, I was really at 140*F... thus 83% attenuation on my Bitters with yeast that stops at 72%. This also made my mash hit 159*F instead of 153*F, so I hit it with cold water until it evened out at 153*F.

After I ran off my first runnings, I hit it with my sparge water and gave it a good mix. Started to run off the second runnings and noticed that it was quite slow from 7.5-8 gallons, then no movement at all... my very first stuck sparge (23 batches). I gave it a good stir, recirculated, and ran off the remainder to 10 gallons @ 1.040. 1.040 was supposed to be my OG post boil. I hit 90% efficiency. Had to think on the fly for this one. I didn't want a 1.050 Blonde Ale, so I topped it off with cold water to hit 12 gallons preboil @ 1.033, and added another 0.10 oz of Zeus for the adjusted bittering. Boiled it down to 10.5 gallons in an hour for an OG of 1.037 (should have boiled another 15-20 minutes to get it closer to my desired OG of 1.040). My Immersion Chiller - designed for 5 gallon batches - took the 10.5 gallons from boiling to 90*F in about 22 minutes, not bad (another 15 minutes to get it to 65*F).

After letting it settle, and sanitizing my Better Bottle, conical, and a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket, I started running it off into the Better Bottle (measurements are fully calibrated on it). At about 1.75 gallons, I stopped the flow and dumped it from the BB to the bucket, then filled the BB to 4 gallons and dumped it into the conical (which was severely off on its measurements). Then I sent 4 gallons to the BB and the last of it to the bucket (2.5 gallons total). I aerated the BB and conical and pitched the 1.5L West Yorkshire starter into the two batches. I pitched a starter of Brett I made from Orval previously into the bucket for a Brett Blonde with the extra wort (didn't want to pitch the yeast for 8 gallons into 10.5).

The Blondes were rocking within 16 hours, and full bore by 30 hours, but the Brett Blonde was still a no-go at 42 hours, so I dumped the rest of the Orval starter into it before work and came home to a nice pelicle. After another 36 hours the pelicle is full bore and bubbled up nicely. Another 24 hours later and the Brett Blonde has a krausen. Wort stability test was still showing no activity at one week, which is awesome, I opened it and it is pure fresh wort.

After one week, I took samples and readings on all of them. The Better Bottle smells of peaches, melons, and a touch of sweet malt at 1.010. The conical is at 1.007, the aroma is lightly phenolic and has a light dirty fruit smell... I am thinking the conical is infected and will now house sours only which sucks since it would be perfect for lagers, yet I want to do more sours so that works too. The Brett Blonde is acidic, light, funky, a little fruity, and slightly oxidized (I dumped the whole 2L 8 month old starter into 2.5 gallons, to be expected), and it is @ 1.007 as well.


American Blonde Ale
10.5 gallons
3.5 ABV

11# Pale Malt
1# Carafoam
0.5# Honey Malt
45 minute mash @ 153*F
90% Efficiency

60 minute boil
60 mins 0.20 oz Zeus 15.4% AA
25 mins 1.00 oz Amarillo 10.4% AA
0 mins 1.00 oz Amarillo 10.4% AA

1/4 tsp Gypsum - Mash
3/8 tsp Calcium Chloride - Mash
1/4 tsp Gypsum - Boil
1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride - Boil
1/4 tsp Yeast Nutrient 12 mins
1 tab     Whirfloc 12 mins

Chill to 62*F
Pitch 1.5L Starter WY 1469 West Yorkshire
Split to 3 fermenters
Ferment 68*F for 7 days
Ambient for 21 days
Bottled 18 - 12 oz bottles w/ 4 carb tabs each from Better Bottle only
Soured all remaining beer

OG 1.037
FG 1.010

Just for fun... the name of the beer came from an infamous day for a co-worker that she will never live down. Back when our new branch was just opening and didn't have their own laminating machine, they would send any items for laminating to our main branch. The branch sent a couple new membership cards over to have laminated and placed into an envelope that was ready to mail to the members. The sticky note said "Please laminate and mail to the members" meaning, laminate the cards, place in envelope, and mail. The blonde of all blondes placed the cards into the envelope, then laminated the envelope and sent it back to the branch with a big question mark. Thus, an apt name for a Blond Ale... Laminated Envelope.