Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TIRADE: 2014 BJCP - Saisons w/o Brett? Utter Absurdity!

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE EVERYONE!  I hope your year has been a good one, mine sure has.  Speaking of a New Year, this should be the year we get our new BJCP Style Guidelines.  And you know what, I already have a bone to pick with these new 2014 BJCP guidelines.  Yes, I realize that I am about to rant on the rough draft of a document that is not yet released to the public as the solidified standards.  But let’s just be honest, if you have read this section of the new proposed guidelines you have either scratched your head in wonder if it is a typo, or have become nearly irate at how glaringly inaccurate the standards for Saison are.  I am building my case against a specific aspect of the forthcoming guidelines on multiple basis points: Historical accuracy, Commercial Examples given within the BJCP document, and Current Practice.

The BJCP guidelines contain 2 back-to-back nonsensical statements that Brettanomyces is not to be a part of the Saison style.  The Characteristic Ingredients section states, Brettanomyces is not typical for this style,” and then Style Comparison says, “Saisons with Brett should be entered as American Wild Ales.”  C’mon, really!?!?  Since when?  Have the creators of this section of the style guidelines ever drank a Saison?  Have they ever read the seminal tome on Saisons: Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski?  If so, did they ignore the entire historical essay by Yvan De Baets?  Go back and read it.  Look for all the points in which he talks about Saison having a “wild side”, being produced with mixed cultures, and being akin to young and hoppy Geueze.  Read it.  Read it?  Did you see that?  Brett is part of the standard characteristics for the historical style.  I realize that everyone says Dupont is the best, and I tend to agree, but Dupont itself uses a blend of 4 yeasts as its house culture, which in the essay is stated to have highly attenuative wild yeast in it (pgs 108-109).  I have had a pellicle form atop my bottle culture from Dupont, and am re-culturing it again just to confirm.

Another issue I want to raise with the guidelines as they stand in reference to no Brettanomyces character in Saisons is the inherent inconsistencies in the document itself.  When we look at the commercial examples listed by the guidelines’ authors we find, or course, Saison Dupont, which has already been stated contains Brett (the statement is to highly attenuative wild yeast that create acids and rearrange esters, so yes, Brettanomyces), followed by the Fantome beers, and Saison de Pipaix, then many others.  It is interesting to me that the commercial examples flow from most accurate to closely accurate in that order, and the #1 spot which defines the style, the #2 (which actually holds numerous examples from a single brewery) and the #3 spot ALL CONTAIN BRETT!!! (read the first comment on this Mad Fermentationist blogpost for info on #3).  How can you make a statement like “Brettanomyces is not typical for this style,” and “Saisons with Brett should be entered as American Wild Ales” then in the next breath state emphatically that the style defining examples are beers containing Brettanomyces?  How divergent from yourself can you actually be?  “The best Saisons made commercially contain Brett, but your lowly homebrews better not or they are out of style!”  Sure thing guys.

Let’s be honest about the new guidelines for a moment shall we.  One of the main reasons we are getting updated style guidelines is because the landscape of the beer world has shifted greatly in the past 6 years since the last revision.  These new guidelines contain information on oxymoronical beers like Black India PALE Ales and Session IPAs (their just the new APA, c’mon).  But why?  Because these beers are changing and redefining previous style boundaries.  And so are modern American Farmhouse AlesBrettanomyces is just one of many yeasts present in a large range of today’s Saisons.  Many of the currently sought after beers in this style contain Brettanomyces as well as Lactic acid bacteria for some.  Hill Farmstead, Jester King, Crooked Stave, Side Project, Grassroots, Tired Hands, all make a variety of Saisons containing Brettanomyces, and in some cases, it is the primary fermenter.  Even Boulevard and Bruery, make a Brett Saison, and who can forget Jolly Pumpkin?  My point is that these are not American Wild Ales.  This is the new face of Saison.  This is actually the old face of Saison with new twists on hair styles, glasses, tats, piercings, and facial hair from American brewers.  As I stated earlier, Saison has always had Brettanomyces in it, up until the 20th century when mass produced lagers and single strain brewing yeast cultures ruined the beauty of a truly rustic ale.  Why in the world would someone create a committee of smart brewing folks to rewrite the current guidelines to reflect the current shift in color for IPAs but purposefully exclude the shift in Saisons back to the original style?

I realize that I can be fairly bold when I get on a tangent, and this is one of those times.  To anyone who had a hand in writing the guidelines for Saisons, I mean no disrespect, and I am sure you put a lot of thought into the guidelines.  If you took offense, I would encourage you not to get angry with me, but to ask the deeper question: is this guy right?  I doubt anything will change when the new guidelines are released.  If it doesn’t change, it will just be another area that the BJCP fails to reflect the reality of today’s beer culture, it’s just really sad that it could be that far off at the very moment it releases its newest update.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why I Brew Beer: Christmas Edition

Why I brew?  Good question.  Here is part of the answer (too long for one post).  

Because a baby was born 2000 years ago.  I realize that seems odd, why would a baby being born 2000 years ago cause me to brew beer in the 21st century?  Of course, you probably have some idea of who this baby is, and are wondering even more, why the birth of baby Jesus would cause me to brew beer.  I mean, isn't he that guy that grew up to make people give up drinking beer and going to movies?

The birth of that baby brought hope.  It brought joy.  It brought peace.  It said to the world "YOU MATTER".  It said to the world, "You don't have to wander and wonder, is there more than this?"  And not just the people in the world, but the stuff in it, it matters.  It was this baby who would grow up, and as his first miraculous act take water and turn it into the best wine.  He did this at a party where they had already drank all the wine they had on hand.  He did it to take the shame of the host away who should have had enough wine to last the entire event (about 5-7 days long).  It was this baby who spent the bulk of his most impactful moments in life caring about hurting and broken people that the religious of his day had rejected, and he did it over food and wine.  He grew up to be mocked by the religious leaders of his day for being a drunk and glutton, a friend of sinners (like me).  He was born to love the broken, heal the sick, take our shame, make us whole, forgive our sins, bring us peace.  He was born to bring us back to the God who made us and placed us in the world he made, with all of its wonder, including the wonder of fermentation.  He enjoyed this world with us, and will do it again some day.  Until then, I enjoy it in remembrance and gratitude.

I brew beer because I want opportunities to enjoy good drink and good food with broken and hurting people that the religious people I know would reject (who isn't broken and hurting, let's be real).  I brew to enjoy the gift of a God who loves me, and who gave himself for me.  Who gave us yeast and hops and barley.  I brew because a baby was born 2000 years ago, and I yearn to be like him.  He came to stop us from wandering and wondering, is there more than this??? Why, yes there is... here's a beer I made... let's talk about it...

So, enjoy a good beer with your good food, with friends and loved ones, and celebrate the birth of a baby, a baby to bring us hope.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DIY: Shaker Tray (for Yeast Ranching)

In most modern labs cultures and media are grown on some sort of tray or platform designed to move the liquid culture for faster growth.  In the brewing world we use stir plates.  These contraptions use magnets to create a vortex inside the liquid yeast starter which off-gases the CO2 and brings in oxygen from the ambient air for a much higher cell growth.  This works great when you have a high enough volume to use a stir-bar and flask, but what about those initial steps?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

REVIEW: RE: Fresh (Mango Berlinerweisse)

A hot Summer's day, sweat, labor, dirt, lawn, shovel, gardening, building, deck, scorching sun, heat stroke.  A far cry from the blustery weather in Oregon this December.  But thus is the way of the sour beer brewer.  It's ready when it's ready and no sooner.  I wanted my Mango Berlinerweisse in the heat of August when I was mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, Barbecuing fish, and preparing to pick some hops.  A week before Winter is officially here is not when I wanted it.  But when you work with Lacto as a souring agent post boil, that is what you get.  I am finding that the Cascade Lacto strain is best used with patience.  It does not sour quickly, that is for sure.  Still a tasty beer, and will be great in another 6-7 months when the heat hits again and yard work is in full swing.

Pours stunningly clear with a thick, moussy, brilliantly white head that drops harder than a Ghavi beat.  Bubbles continue to rocket up from the bottom of the glass like an aquarium stone.

Mild barnyard funk jumps first with fruity yogurt following.  The fruit is kind of dull and nondescript, can't tell it is Mango.  Light crackery malt back note.

Sourness washes over the tongue first with a fruity pop.  Subtle tropical fruit note, but like the nose, can't discern Mango.  Crackery malt.  Light sharpness to the acid, acetic isn't part of the style, but it isn't overpowering at all, very light.

Puckering tartness pulls on the tongue and sides of the throat.  Dry finish with a very prickly carbonation.  Effervescent, light, crisp, refreshing.

Clean lactic kick with a mild fruitiness and faint Brett notes.  Not a super complex beer, but the style isn't known for that.  Easy drinker, and will be wonderful when the heat hits next year.  Definitely needs more Mango.