Archive for the ‘beers’ Category

lambic solera update

Monday, January 21st, 2013

sweet nectar

ten months have passed since I brewed and racked over sixty gallons of lambic into a neutral french oak barrel.  this weekend curiosity got the better of me and I decided to sneak a sample.

  • after contemplating multiple sampling techniques, I decided to avoid unnecessary oxygenation by pulling a my sample from a small hole drilled into the barrel head.  from what I have read, vinnie cilurzo of russian river pioneered this method, and his advice proved to be right on the money.  you can check out funk factory’s tutorial as well (however, I would drill the hole about halfway up to reduce the force of the sample stream).  also, be sure to be ready with a glass and stainless nail at hand before drilling (mise en place!).
  • my sample came in at a gravity of 1.005 (5.45% abv).  I took the following notes:
    • lambic solera
    • appearance: pale gold with sediment in suspension
    • aroma: assertive barnyard with lots of funk
    • taste: tannic with a complex funk up front and a lemony, acidic finish
    • overall: I’m very happy where this is headed at 10 months, and am excited to see further development (increased intensity in flavors/aroma?)
  •   It’s going to be hard to hold out for another couple of months with this one, but I have a good feeling it will be worth the wait… 

drilling

retrieving

plugging

tightening

ready for the next sample

saison nouveau

Monday, January 14th, 2013

racking the wort

has it really been six months since my last house saison went in the fermentor?

  • as I had mentioned during the last house saison brew day, even though I was more than pleased with how my house saison line had evolved (and had gotten very positive feedback from the tasting public), I felt that the beers themselves were a bit redundant.  more specifically, I feel as though my house saisons had become dark and light versions of a “wild” beer instead of a “saison,” and I also considered white and banning to be superior to their house saison equivalents (e.g., they had a more balanced acidity, a more complex/deeper funk, etc.).
  • as a result, I decided to rework my “house saison” six-month fermentation lineup by focusing on a rustic, somewhat high gravity base beer finished long-term with brettanomyces:
  • 23 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 80.7 %
    3 lbs Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 10.5 %
    2 lbs 8.0 oz unmalted spelt, cereal mash Grain 3 8.8 %
    4.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 4 24.4 IBUs
    1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 5 3.0 IBUs
    1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 6 0.0 IBUs
    1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs
  • I ended up with an OG of 1.067 and initially fermented at 69F with a stepped up starter of WLP565.  hopefully the saison yeast will stall in about week (as this strain is prone to do), at which time I will add a vial of WLP650 (as well as an oak cube or two).  I also mashed at 155F to slow down the sacc and help give the brett a foothold.  the relatively high mash temp (and use of unmalted spelt) should counteract any thinness caused by the serious attenuation of my yeast blend.
  • during the main mash, I performed a cereal mash on the unmalted spelt addition, following my earlier unmalted wheat mash method.  to avoid a stuck mash, I added copious amounts of rice hulls to the cereal mash before adding it to the main mash tun (it worked like a charm).  the spelt should add some depth and mouthfeel to the finished product, as well as some complex fermentables for the extended fermentation.
  • after six months in the fermentor I’m planning on dry-hopping this batch with 2 oz. of EKG and 1 oz. of saaz for a week before bottling/kegging.  then it will be time to formulate its dark house counterpart!

boiling the spelt               adding the rice hulls

the cereal mash               sparging

 

rye bottling, bkyeast brett tasting, bottle waxing

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

tasting the all brett trio

during the last couple of weeks I set aside some time between the lights and action of the holiday season to finish up some projects from the last few months.

  • first up was the bottling and kegging of the three variations of the rye amber I brewed a month ago.  the five gallons of all-brett B (FG: 1.008, ABV: 5.83%) and standard saison  (FG: 1.005, ABV: 6.3%) each went into kegs, while the two gallons of saison/brett blend  (FG: 1.006, ABV: 6.14%) were bottled.  after some thought, I primed with brown sugar for a little extra depth in the finished product – the molasses in the sugar seemed to complement the nuances of the saison in particular.
  • upon tasting samples of each variety, the saison predictably produced the most assertive aroma and flavors, while the brett B variety was somewhat neutral.  however, after recently tasting a matured version of my all brett B blonde,  I’m confident that the brett complexity will develop in the rye amber (the blonde had a very refreshing, funky, and dry brett character after a month in the fermentor and another in the bottle).

I also set aside part of an evening to review the three bkyeast variations I had bottled up about a month ago.  here are some thoughts:

  • WY3191 brett isolate: decent carbonation, clear gold, transparent; lemony, tart aroma; clean taste with a slight bretty lemon back; mellow and drinkable
  • cantillon iris isolate C2: very little carbonation, amber gold, transparent; funky fruit nose; floral earthy taste; pretty good depth/complexity, may add something interesting to a saison or wild beer, seems like it would take a while to fully develop
  • cantillon iris isolate C3: very light carb, amber gold, transparent; light stone fruit, characteristic brett finish; like C2, would make a good complementary fermenter, like C2, may have to wait a while for all the flavors to round out here

in addition, I finally got around to waxing a bunch of bottles for the long haul.

  • I waxed up my mead, banning, and apricot lambic bottles with dark grey wax, which represented the last of this year’s vintage.  I hit my bottles with a different color wax for easy age identification and display consistency.  I also buy my wax in big bulk chunks that I melt down in a larger coffee can over the stove and then pour into a small tomato paste can for bottle dipping so that the melted wax can reach further down the neck of each bottle.

bottles waiting to be filled               kegging

adding brown sugar to the bottles               waxed up and ready for the shelf

 

apricot lambic shootout

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

pouring fou' foune

after a couple of months in the bottle, it was finally time to try out my apricot lambic.

 

  • cantillon fou’ foune 2008
  • appearance: great carbonation, turbid, white head that quickly fades to lacing
  • aroma: intense, complex, dirty barnyard funk
  • taste: bracing acidity, slight sticky stone fruit evident on finish
  • overall: enjoyable, but the high acid level made this beer far from sessionable.

 

  • house apricot lambic
  • appearance: light straw color, crystal clear, solid carbonation, quickly vanishing head
  • aroma: sweet ripe apricot, lingering funk
  • taste: assertive complex funk with tart apricot and a tangy, dry finish with a fresh, complex acidity.  very drinkable.
  • overall: I can’t think of a tastier beer I’ve made to date, really happy with this one.  I’m excited to take my first solera barrel pull soon to experiment with other local fruit.

 

my apricot lambic

 

another pour               best friends

dionicess dinner, the phantom carriage

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

well, the cat is finally out of the bag.

  • last sunday AP and I attended the 11th dionicess dinner at beachwood long beach.  the theme was zombie apocalypse survival, which included off-the-wall courses such as octopus, snails, heart, and brains paired with unique beers from top-notch local breweries.
  • one highlight of the dionicess event was the introduction of a new socal brewing project – the phantom carriage.  this introduction was exciting to me and AP because, if all goes well, I’m going to be brewing with the phantom carriage.
  • specifically, I will be in charge of “alternative fermentations,” and will focus on wild ales similar to my current pipeline lineup that are fermented both in stainless and oak.  more details will be divulged once they are finalized, but things should get interesting in the near future.  stay tuned!

 

              

 PC final 2

 

 

rye amber ale three ways, blonde tasting

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

last weekend I decided to rehash my all-brett amber ale with a couple of variations.

  • first, I decided to spice up the mash with the addition of 20% malted rye.  I also went with some spicy/earthy hop additions late in the boil to impart those aromatics into the finished product (12 gal, 80% efficiency):
    • 14 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 58.1 %
      5 lbs Rye Malt (4.7 SRM) Grain 2 20.7 %
      2 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 3 8.3 %
      2 lbs Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 4 8.3 %
      1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 5 4.1 %
      1.6 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 6 0.4 %
      2.00 oz Palisade [8.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 7 22.2 IBUs
      2.00 oz Palisade [7.50 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 8 10.3 IBUs
      4.00 oz Williamette [5.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 9 0.0 IBUs
      2.00 oz Tradition [6.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
  • I mashed in at 154F and had a post-boil OG of 13 brix (1.053 – I blame my extensive use of rice hulls for the loss of a couple of gravity points).  Once the wort was chilled to 71F, I oxygenated by shaking the fermentors (my oxygenation stone is all gummed up at the moment) and fermented the wort three ways – 5 gals with a stepped up vial of WLP566, another 5 with a stepped up vial of WLP650, and another 2 with a blend of both yeasts (I transferred some wort from each fermentor once they both reached high krausen).  although both yeast vials had been sitting in my fridge for quite some time, they took off without any hesitation on the stirplate and had the wort going within ten hours.

during the mash I used some down time to taste the three all-brett versions of the blonde I bottled a week ago.

  • I’ll save an in-depth review for a couple more weeks to let each of the beers fully develop, but after just one week I was excited to find that the WLP644 trois strain had carbed up nicely and left a dense white head in the glass upon pouring.  its overripe, earthy guava aroma and flavor really impressed me, especially for a brett beer just under a month old.  I’m really happy with this strain and am looking forward to using it a lot more in the future (maybe in a citrus-hopped pale or IPA?).

              

 

brettanomyces project updates, mead bottling

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

I wrapped up a long weekend of turkey and football with an intense bottling session down in the basement.

  • I kegged and bottled each of the three versions of my all-brett blonde.  after three weeks in the fermentor, the WLP644 trois strain finished at 1.006, the WLP653 lambicus strain finished at 1.011, and I was surprised to find that the WLP650 brux strain finished highest at 1.012.  the brux batch finished high enough that I placed all the brux bottles in a cooler to carb up (these should get consumed pretty fast, but you can never be too safe!).  I’m planning on trying a bottle of each variety in a week for a comprehensive tasting/comparison.
  • I also bottled each of the bkyeast half-gallon test batches that had been fermenting for about a month.  each half-gallon batch yielded four 12oz bottles and about 10oz of slurry.  the C2 cantillon isolate finished at 1.010, the C3 cantillon isolate finished at 1.012, and the wyeast berliner isolate (which had a pretty impressive pellicle and was crystal clear) finished at 1.008.  each sample had a unique and exciting flavor profile that I will elaborate upon in a week or two once the bottles carb up and I can get a proper tasting in.

after bottling and kegging the cornucopia of brett variations, I tossed some corks in my bucket of sanitizer and jumped right into bottling the last iteration of my mead, which entered the fermentor sixteen months ago.

  • mead is great for the holidays – it can be substituted for white wine at the dinner table and it also makes a great gift that can be stashed away for decades.  after a long secondary in a keg, my mead turned out crystal clear and managed to finish at 0.997 for an abv of 13.59%.  my sample had an intense honey and wildflower aroma.  I think my next mead will be a melomel (fruit mead) – maybe I can make use of some of my persimmon stash

               

               

 

 

persimmon harvest, bierkast article

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed to lomita to stock up on some persimmons.

  • a few weeks back our friend JB mentioned that she had a sizable fuyu persimmon tree in her backyard and that this year’s yield was more than she could handle.  what an understatement – behind her house was the largest persimmon tree I had ever seen, loaded to the hilt with ripe fruit.  AP and I spent a couple hours up in the leaves, relieving the sagging branches of their pesticide-free bounty while JB’s dogs darted around, investigating our growing piles of fruit.
  • I then spent a few more hours destemming, washing, and organizing the fuyus.  after all was said and done, we ended up with close to one hundred pounds of fruit, and barely made a dent in the tree.  prepping that volume of fruit is no joke for one person – so far I’ve only managed to cut, vacuum seal, and freeze half of our haul, and am not looking forward to finishing the other half.  it will all be worth it in the future though – how does one hundred pounds of persimmons in a barrel of lambic sound?  not that it hasn’t been done before, of course…

on another note, last week kip from bierkast headed over to overcarbed HQ to check out my setup.

  • over the course of a few hours we toured my fermentation room/beer cellar and checked out my homebrew rig, while sampling some of my current lineup.  I tossed some of my neighbor’s fresh caught chucklehead on the grill while we talked shop, covering a variety of topics from lambic brewing to sourcing local ingredients.  his well-written writeup can be found HERE.

               

 

all brett blonde, LACBB summit at beachwood

Friday, November 9th, 2012

last weekend I kept rolling with the funk and put together an all-brett blonde split three ways.

  • I based my grain bill on various recipes for brett blondes (which all seemed pretty homogeneous), but kept to a 60 minute boil and mashed at 151F (in hindsight, I could have kicked it up to around 154 or 155F, since all-brett beers tend to finish a little thin).  my starting gravity was 1.055 and I kept the IBUs to around 27.
  • after cooling the wort to the mid-70s, I divided it up into three fermentors (two 5gal and on 2.5gal), aerated, and pitched a different isolated brett strain into each fermentor.  a vial of WLP653 went into five gallons, my ramped-up starter of WLP644 went into another five, and a vial of WLP650 was pitched into the smaller 2.5 gal better bottle.
  • the 644 took off vigorously within hours, while the slightly underpitched WLP650 took a day or so to get going.  I had read that the 653 was a notoriously slow starter, which rang true – it took three days to see visible activity, but by that time the airlock was churning and there was a healthy krausen.

after hosing down my brewstand, ML and I headed for beachwood BBQ long beach to meet up with the LACBB crew for our monthly summit.

  • julian shrago (brewer), gabe gordon (owner), and daniel drennon (writer) all spoke at the event, although I arrived late and was admittedly distracted by a killer brisket sandwich and tasty house IPA.  kip’s article over at bierkast summarizes the event nicely (and includes a pretty unflattering profile shot of me at the bar).  not a bad way to spend a sunday!

               

 

 

banning II, bkyeast

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

last weekend I put together the second incarnation of banning, my wild blonde that I bottled the week before.

  • the grain bill was the same as last year’s batch, but I switched up the hop additions toremove later hops that I feel would be underrepresented anyway after a year in the fermentor (13 gal batch):
    • 26.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 94.55 %
      1.50 lb Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 5.45 %
      3.00 oz Aged Saaz [1.00 %] (60 min) Hops 3.7 IBU
  • I also added a pinch of raw wheat berries, mashed higher (158F), and hit an OG of 1.068 (16.5 brix).  after a few days on just the slurry from the previous batch I pitched a single vial of WLP655, which took off shortly thereafter.

while I was brewing, the mailman delivered a much anticipated package from the east coast.

  • a few days earlier I had come across bkyeast’s blog via a post off embrace the funk’s facebook page.  dmitri, the man behind bkyeast, is a cell bio PhD student who isolates and banks yeast strains in his spare time.  he was generously sending out brettanomyces isolates as a community service, and I managed to score two isloates from cantillon iris dregs and one from WY3191.
  • after finishing up banning, I split two gallons of the wort into four sanitized gallon jugs, and each was inoculated with a different bkyeast isolate (I pitched my vial of WLP644 into the fourth jug).  banning’s neutral character, low hopping, and diverse sugar chain makeup should make it ideal for comparing the performance of the four different yeasts.  check in soon for an update!