Friday, August 15, 2014

RECIPE: The Becca Begins (Solera Barrel 1st Fill: Belgian Blonde)

Barrel is all topped up
Ever since I started brewing sour beers, and especially after reading Wild Brews, I have wanted to make a sour and put it into a barrel to age.  Specifically I wanted to start a Sour Solera, fill it with one beer, sour it, pull a portion after 6 months, then refill the (now) empty portion of the barrel with new beer.  I can add the same recipe as the original keeping the base flavors the same, or I can add something different and shift the color, aroma, and flavor profile in a different direction for the next pull.  I just needed something to house the beer.

I had considered using one of the blue plastic drums from the Homebrew Store that previously housed Liquid Malt Extract, but the potential oxygen uptake on a project of this size was too much for me.  I had also tried to figure out a way to do it with a retired 1/2 barrel keg but couldn't find one through legal paths.  I had put out an email to the brew club to see if anyone had a lead on one, and a response I wasn't expecting came back: I have a 14 gallon wine barrel that I am not going to use that you can have.  Wow!  Jackpot!  

Saison and 5 Brett Strains
The barrel had set empty for some time so I had to do some work to get it to swell again as well as to clean it for holding my beer and not adding unwanted bacteria to it like acetobacter.  It took a couple days to get it to swell.  First i filled it 1/3 full with boiling water and stood it on each head.  I also filled the heads on the outside with boiling water to get them to swell.  After setting it back on its belly on the stand it was dropping water quite a bit.  I topped it up to about 1/2 full  with cold tap water and left it there for the day (went to finish my brew at Falling Sky).  I came back afterwards and topped it up to about 3/4 full as the water flow had declined (but not stopped).  The following day I topped it off to full after adding Potassium Metabisulfate (2g/L) and Citric Acid (1g/L) to it to kill any bacteria, mold, and anything else as well as keep the water fresh.  It was fully swollen and holding water tight by the next day.

Mash is Drained
I decided that I wanted to brew a Belgian Blonde for the first iteration to go through the barrel.  I wanted the light, fruity, spicy, funky, tart flavors to shine, let the yeast do the bulk of the talking on this one.  From here I can go wherever I feel fit.  I took a queue from Russian River's sour Blonde Sanctification and went with a lower OG than Belgian Blonde's usually have since the higher degree of attenuation from the primary yeasts, bacteria, and Brett will make it super dry and raise the ABV that way.  To give some character to the beer I used a fair amount of Belgian Aromatic malt and a home made Invert Sugar which lended a fruity alcohol note during fermentation.  I set up to brew 15+ gallons to ensure a full fill, but hit 16 gallons, and in the end, I still came up shy by 1/2 a gallon. 

Only time will tell where this one goes from here.

Gallons: 16.00
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.005
ABV: 6.40%
Added Invert Sugar to Hot Wort to Dissolve
IBUs: 22
SRM: 7.0
Efficiency: 92%
20.00# Weyermann Pilsner (80.0%)
2.50# Special Aromatic (10.0%)
2.50# Sugar, Invert (10.0%)
Mash 10 hours @ 154*F
Boil 45 mins
35 2.00 oz Magnum 16.40%AA
Kettle Additions:
Gypsum - Mash 1 1/4 tsp; Boil 1 3/8 tsp
Epsom Salts - Mash 1/2 tsp; Boil 1/2 tsp
Calcium Chloride - Mash 1 3/8 tsp; Boil 1 5/8 tsp
Lactic Acid - Sparge 1.4ml
Yeast Nutrient - 6 taps
Whirfloc - 1 each
Cooled to: 74*F
2 Better Bottles = JasperYeast JY43 Saison slurry from Enygma

1 Better Bottle = JY33 B Brux & 87 B Brux, ECY B Naardensis, B Custersianus, and B Nanus, Cascade Brewing Lactobicillus Brevis
Barrel = WLP B Brux Trois, BSI B Lambicus, WY B Clausenii, Orval B Brux, Elysian's Mortis B Brux, Flat Tail Brewing "Brett F" wild yeast from local plums, Cascade L Brevis
74*F 2 days
78*F 2 days
85*F 10 days
Ambient Garage Temps for 6+ months

Maxed out my 17.5 gallon Kettle
7/16 Boiled 3 3/4 qts of water with 2.5# of Demerra sugar and 5/8 tsp of Citric Acid for 2 hours to make 2 qts of invert sugar. Next time I will add half the water volume and boil for 20 minutes. Think it might be too dark and rummy for a Belgian Blonde. 

7/18-19 Brewed alone, mashed all grains in at 8:30pm at 154*F. Dropped to 142*F by 7:30am, loss of 12*F over 11 hours. Sparged and boiled as one batch, added the sugar and end of boil. Cooled wort to 74*F and transferred via pump to 3 Better Bottles at 10:00am . Pitched 2 with JY 43 Saison strain slurry from Enygma, and the other with 5 Brett strains and Lacto. Set controller to 74*F. Positive pressure and bubbles in Saison yeast fermentors within hours, full krausen on all 3 by next morning. 

CO2 Force Racked Into Barrel
7/21 Jumped temps up to 78*F 

7/23 Jumped up to 85*F 

7/27 Pulled samples, tastes great. 1.006, 1.005, 1.004 on the refractometer. 

8/2 Wracked off of yeast into cleaned 15 gallon wine barrel. Samples of the JY43 version were lightly sulfury, higher alcohols, fruity, no phenols. The Brett and Lacto version had a bit of funk and over-ripe fruits. Came up short on volume some how, so I racked ½-1 gallon of the Too Small Sour Brett Rye Saison in with a bottling wand shoved into the picnic tap to avoid splashing and filled the headspace. This added BSI Brett Lambicus, Elysian’s Brett B, Wyeast Brett C, Orval Brett B, and Flat Tail’s Brett “F” to the mix as well as more Cascade Lacto. 

8/12 Pulled bung to see a pellicle has already formed and took a sample. Light Brett spiciness and funk mingled with fruity alcohol.

8/16 Was able to score some 4D Stainless Steel nails from a super helpful brewer in town that has an amazing barrel aging program. Drilled the head of the barrel about 3/4 of the way down with a 7/64" drill bit and then slid one of the nails into the hole. This gives me the ability to pull samples from the barrel over time and not have to open the barrel itself and expose the beer to oxygen.

Left in garage at ambient temps to age and sour (Max temp in August in garage was 122*F).

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