Wednesday, April 30, 2014

UPDATE: Failed Lacto Cultures

A few weeks ago I posted about stepping up my Brett cultures by reviving older pitches from previous ferments as well as culturing new ones and getting pitches of new stuff from my buddy, Stephen.  At the same time I was working on culturing up Lacto from 3 different sources as well.  Stephen and I had split a Cascade Apricot after dinner on April 7th; he took the bulk of the dregs and I kept a few ml of slurry from the bottle.  His was pitched directly into a small wort starter (1.020 @ 300ml) that he had brought with him, and was left at room temp.  I put mine into about 250ml of Lactose sugar starter the next night and kept it at around 95*F.  I ended up taking this starter and mixing in apple juice to bring it up to 750ml of liquid.  I also added some Zoi Greek Yogurt to a jar and hit it with 750ml of apple juice too.  The third source was some pale malt I had in the garage which I added to to the last 500ml of apple juice.  I placed all of these in the ferm fridge wrapped tight in my heating blanket and kept them at 105*F for a week.  I sampled once or twice to see if I was getting any activity.  On brewday I was going to pitch some of the starters into my Saison along with 2 Saison yeasts and the Bretts.  I went to taste them and nothing.  Not a trace of Lactic acid.  I am thinking that my pasteurized apple juice must have contained sulfites as opposed to heat pasteurization (I swore I checked that though), thus inhibiting the growth of the Lacto in all 3 starters.

Luckily my buddy still had his 2 week old Cascade starter which he said was quite tart, and offered 200ml to me for my pitch which I used 150ml of and kept the other 50ml to grow up for myself.  This new starter of mine spent a week in the ferm fridge with the fermenting Saisons on 250ml of last runnings from the brewday, and had gotten quite sour.  I pitched around 100ml of the starter into my Oud Bruin from this time last year to get it to sour up, and then added the remaining 50ml (after sampling and such) to a 500ml 1.020 DME based starter for further growth.  It is back in the ferm fridge with the Saisons in the mid 80*s souring up nicely.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Dark World (American Stout)

This beer is the second recipe to be created by the Beer Advocate Homebrew Forum as a collective effort.  Spearheaded by Vikeman, the recipes are built by vote by the other forum users to construct the entire recipe: style, IBUs, OG, FG, ABV, Grist make up, Mash Temp, Bittering hops, flavor hops, aroma hops, timing of hop additions, yeast, fermentation temps, the whole 9 yards (except water profile).  Everyone had strong opinions about the beer's make up.  In the end I brewed the beer pretty much to the recipe except using a different yeast since I could skip making a starter by using a brewery pitch.  I missed the FG by only 3 points (high), but everything else was spot on.  I thought the beer would turn out great, but it still needs some work. (32/50)

Pours a deep black, looking at the edges of the glass it is clear, with deep garnet highlights, though you can't see through it due to the darkness.  Thick brown head stays throughout the whole drink leaving thick lacing all the way down. (3/3)

First thing to jump from the glass is a burst of Chinook hops, citrus, pine, and earthy Willamette hops.  Quickly followed by chocolate malt and day old coffee, toffee, bit of toast.  Burnt raisins (not in a good dark crystal way).  Nutty yeast, light esters. Hops are forward, but not dominant.  Malt is complex and dark, just not as roasty as I would like.  I am wondering if this is from using the higher roasted Crisp as it seems to have burned raisin notes more than coffee or roast. (8/12)

First sip reveals nutty yeast and bread dough, followed by earthy hops, touch of citrus, toasty malt, toffee, coffee, bitter chocolate, and more acrid raisin.  Hops, malt, and yeast are all balanced.  Hop forward for a stout which is good for style, but not forward enough to breach IPA range.  Still slightly out of wack though, something no blending well. (11/20)

Medium body, silky on the tongue, medium carbonation, balanced bitterness, it's higher, but not bracing.  Finish is semi-dry, it is full and rich but the roasted grains and hops give a drier impression. (4/5)

Early on this beer was way out of balance, too much hops and the ones used were not meshing well.  A month in the keg at cold temps has rounded all the flavors out some.  The yeast, hops, and malts blend well with just enough of each.  The toasting of the oats doesn't seem to add much except some toasty notes, which could be from the Munich too.  Makes for a nice Spring beer, not sure it makes for the best one though.  Something is slightly off, I think it is the Chinook as they are a little harsh here (odd since I love them in my IPAs), and possibly the choice of roast barley.  Hits the spot for when you want a Stout, but don't really want a second pint. (6/10)

Took 2nd place from 12 entries in the Sasquatch Homebrew Competition on May 31st, 2014.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Where The Wild Things Are: The Carol (BOS Geueze/Lambic)

I am actually surprised that I have not reviewed this beer in its 1.5 years from bottling.  I entered this beer at about 3 months into a Club Only Comp and got knocked hard because it was carbonated and Lambic is a still beverage (per their interpretations).  So when I decided to enter it into an actual BJCP comp at 18 months in the bottle (2.5 years from brewing) I took the advice of many other homebrewers on forums everywhere... enter what it is, not what you wanted to make.  Even though it was not a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old Lambics (not even a Lambic as it wasn't Pils and Unmalted Wheat, nor did it have aged hops), I entered it as a Geueze.  I am looking forward to the new BJCP Guidelines to be released this year; I really hope the addition of Wild Beers expands the categories enough to cover all types of sour beers and wild ales, American Sours, Floridaweisse, 100% Brett Beers, etc.  

Anyways, I judged the competition and was able to hang out for the Best of Show judging.  It was a trip to watch this beer go forward, 22 beers to 7, top 6, top 5, top 4, why aren't they even discussing my beer?, top 3, oh crap top 2, I am for sure the honorable mention if nothing else... then the question from Jamie Floyd (brewer/owner of Ninkasi) says to Jason Carriere (owner of Falling Sky), "Is there anything wrong with the Geueze?"  Jason replies "We don't have a case of it!"  And that was it, the moment every brewer dreams of, but few see, and even fewer see it all unfold in front of their very eyes.  My beer took Best of Show.

Pours a beautiful golden orange with a nice dense offwhite head that actually sticks around for awhile and fades to a ring that stays the rest of the way.  Slightly hazy, not clear, but definitely not foggy.

Peach bursts from the glass first, followed by mango, and pineapple, hay, light funkiness (touch of baby diaper, but not in a bad way), oak/winey, some horseblanket, and citrus to finish.  Lots of fruit going on in the nose, followed by a fainter layer of funk.  It is very enjoyable to see how Brett can cause so many different layers of complexity.

First thing to hit the palate is a clean Lactic tartness, not face numbing, but puckering.  Mango, peach, and a touch of funk follow.  Definite oak/wine character there, but not too much, vanilla, sweet berries, touch of acetic acid.  Like the nose, the Brett layered on the juicy fruits more than funk.

Light crisp tart body, but not thin thanks to the unmalted wheat.  Astringent oak tannins pull on the sides of the throat alongside the tartness.  The medium carbonation is perfect for the beer, it pushes out the aromatics, but doesn't mess with the feel.

A very juicy, complex, fruity sour.  Not exactly a Geueze, but very complex, lots of Brett fruit, touch of funk, clean Lactic character, hints of oak.  Whether it is a Lambic, a Geueze, or an awesome American Sour is pointless (a couple brew club BJCP guys made sure to point out multiple times they wouldn't have made it BOS), this beer rocks!  I am culturing the dregs up right now too and will see how they work when used again.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

UPDATE: Prepping for Some Funky Stuff

In a couple weeks I will be brewing a big batch of Saison which will be split up a couple ways.  In preparation for this I have been busy culturing up and propagating different wild/sour/funky yeasts and bacterias.  I started by stepping up the dregs from an Allagash Confluence on the stir plate which had about 800ml of 1.020 starter wort in it.  After 24 hours it was rocking and by 48 was full bore.  I topped it off with another 800ml of about 1.040 wort to give it a bigger starter both in size and gravity.  A few days later it is still roaring.  This beer is a blend of Allagash's proprietary house Belgian strain that they use in the White and other Belgian beers (but not the Saison), and their proprietary Brett strain which was isolated from there coolship.  I am looking forward to how this blend will do with the 1.037 Saison in the works.

I also stepped up some older Brett strains from the slurries in my fridge like a Brett B I cultured from Elysian's Mortis, a Brett L from a local brewery that hooked me up with a pitch, and a new vial of WLP Brett Trios.  I also cultured the dregs from a fairly fresh bottle of Orval to get that funk it is known for.  I boiled up some ~1.020 wort and put it into mason jars and then cooled it down.  I pitched each strain separately to build them up and left the lid loose for CO2 escaping.  When I walk by I tighten the lid and give it a good shake then loosen it up again; by next morning a few were already giving off CO2 and foaming which is great.  My buddy Stephen from church plays with bugs too, and he gave me some Brett C from Wyeast and some Brett "F" which was cultured and isolated from plum skins by the brewer at Flat Tail in a neighboring city, Corvallis.  These will go into primary alongside some Lacto I cultured up from grains and I am hoping some Lacto from a bottle of Cascade that Stephen and I split the other night on my new deck.  He took the bulk of the dregs home to plate and isolate the Lacto, then grow it up, I took the last of the dregs and tossed them into a low gravity solution of Lactose sugar which I have sitting at 105*F right now to try to get some good growth before I brew.  All these strains will be pitched along with both WY PC strians of 3726 Farmhouse (Blauges) and 3725 Biere de Garde (Fantome).  The hope is that getting the Lacto and Brett cell counts stepped up in starters and raring to go, and pitching at the onset with the smaller pitches of the Saison blend will give a quick turn around for a young and complex beer.

Allagash Culture
I am also going to pitch 1/2 gallon of the same Saison wort with a Tej yeast strain to see how it fairs in an all malt environment.  There are 2 other brewers testing the Tej yeast as well and we will compare the final beers to get a feel of how it works.  If these trials go well, it may make its way into the collaboration beer I am doing with Falling Sky in June for winning Best of Show.

I also have 3 bottles worth of dregs from the Carol (BOS Lambic) stepping up for a future brew from just that yeast, that may eventually become a full batch at another local brewery...

Lots of exciting yeasties and beasties to play with, just wish I had more time and more wort...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Hop Hedonist IPA

There is something about a good West Coast IPA, lots of hops bursting out of the glass, complex layers of fruits, resin, pine, and dankness atop a subtle malt background and a dry finish.  That's how I like 'em, and that's how I make 'em.  The layers of hop aroma and flavor are great on this beer, though the bitterness needs a boost.  Both this beer and the Black IPA that was made with it really hit the spot.  The use of Munic. Maybe Malt and Dark Wheat really get the color to a deep orange w/o the raisin flavors and sweetness associated with oxidized crystal malts.

Pours a slightly hop hazed burnished orange with a dense off-white head fades slow to to a cap and leaves great rings of lace all the way down the glass.   Tiny bubbles feed up from the bottom.  Some hop particles in suspension.

Hops leap out of the glass, peach and mango, blueberry, pine needles, followed by hop resin and grapefruit with onion in the background.  Just a touch of floral hops.  There is a sweet and toasty malt note behind it all.  The peach esters from the West Yorkshire yeast really pull it together.

The taste follows the nose, big burst of juicy hops, peach, tropical fruits, pine, and a grapefruit kick.  Dank hop resins follow with lots of hop oils and toasty malts below.  Hard to tell if the peach is all hops or all yeast, but they blend well.

Medium body is rich and smooth, slightly full on the palate, but not heavy, which is part of the hallmark of the West Yorkshire yeast.  Semi-dry finish, needs to be drier for my tastes.  Bitterness balances well, but really is too soft, needs a boost.  The finish is slightly flabby which I am beginning to believe is from the addition of pickling lime to my mash.  I think it is taking the finished pH up a little and leaving the beer without that dry crisp punch I really want to see.  Lactic acid in the glass makes it pop a little more.

Big burst of juicy hops in the nose and tongue, complex hop notes, toasty malt sweetness, good lacing.  This beer is well on it's way to becoming a great IPA (last year's version took 2nd place after 3 months).  We will see what happens with this one when I enter it in June.  The finish needs tweeking, up the IBUs, dry it out a bit more, and get the pH down a tad.  Other than that this beer really quenches that need for lupulin.  Maybe a touch more dankness to round out the big fruits.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Recipe #60: Where The Wild Things Are: Alexander (Saison turned Belgian Dubbel turned Flander's Red)

The time has changed, the temperatures are slowly rising, the sun comes out to say "Hi!" every so often, there is fresh green growth on many plants that were once shriveled and lifeless, trees are blooming, and our allergies are going crazy.  Spring is here.  So when I considering brewing the Beer Advocate Crowd Sourced American Stout for St. Patty's Day, I was torn as I also wanted to get a Saison going with the 3 month old packet of WY3726 Farmhouse Ale in the fridge.  As I looked at the base grains for the stout recipe: Pale Malt, Munich, Toasted Oats, and medium Crystal, they jumped out as great components for a Spring Saison, a little bigger and darker than I normally would do, with maybe a little sweetness.  All I had to do was double these grains and leave the dark grains from the Stout out of the mash.

I also had quite a bit of Tardif de Bourgenone hops from harvest last year that I really wanted to use, so of course I had to use them as the sole hop in this recipe.  This should impart a light fruitiness with spice and herbs, just right for a good Saison, and I used Calypso as a FW hop for a touch of apple and pear if anything carried through.  Layering this atop the malty, toasty, toffee malts seemed like a great place to showcase the complexity of the Farmhouse's fruity and spicy character.  This beer should be right near the edge of the  for the style, toasty, fruity, spicy, light Noble like hops, malt complexity and a middle ABV should've helped offset the still cool nights of the next few months.  Then the FG stopped at 1.012, too sweet for a Saison.  The hops weren't nearly as expressive as they should be in a Saison either.  I started thinking, it kind of tastes like a Dubbel, maybe I'll just go with that.  Then I just said forget it, I'll steep some Special B, boil it to a syrup, add oak, and hit it with a bunch of sour blends and dregs to make it into a pseudo-Flander's Red, especially since I have wanted to make one for a long time and haven't.  I've got enough beer in the pipeline that I don't need this one, and I want to reuse the yeast cake and do an Americanized Saison soon anyways.