Archive for the ‘brewing’ Category

bottling banning and apricot lambic

Friday, October 26th, 2012

I finally managed to set aside some time to bottle both banning (my wild blonde) as well as my turbid mash lambic that I had aged on local apricots.

  • for a wild beer aged for over 14 months with multiple varieties of lacto, brett, and pedio, banning finished surprisingly high at 1.01, for an abv of 7.08%.  it is deep gold in color with a complex funky aroma and an assertive farmhouse brett flavor with plenty of smooth acidity.
  • I kegged five gallons, bottled another five with rockpile yeast as per my earlier method, and racked another two onto the leftover apricots in my 2.5 gallon better bottle once I had racked and bottled my lambic (to see how much flavor and aroma can be extracted from second use fruit).
  • speaking of lambic – after six months on a pound and a half of apricots, two gallons of my original batch had dropped to a final gravity of 0.99(!) for an abv of 7.19%.  upon examining my gravity sample I was greeted with the most amazing aroma I have ever experienced in all of my brewing days – fresh, ripe, sweet apricot melded perfectly with a background of complex earthy funk.  the sample was a crystal clear pale gold with a clean acidity and subtle, complex funk and apricot.  I can’t wait for this one to carb up for a special occasion, and will definitely be aging more of my sours (and especially my lambic) on fruit in the future.




BAM fest, bottling the homegrown saison

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

last saturday I headed over to santa monica for the annual beer, art, and music (BAM) fest.

  • a comprehensive beer selection accompanied a friendly crowd and a great music lineup at the 18th street arts center parking lot.  standout taps included a fresh hop beer from pizza port and a barrel aged imperial stout from smog city.  I got caught up talking shop with a bunch of brewers at the event and only managed to get a couple shots off, but bernie over at friends of local beer took a great set you can check out HERE.

the next morning I found some time to keg and bottle my homegrown saison.

  • the beer finished at 6.5 brix (1.006) for an abv of 6.63%.  since it finished so low I decided to skip the brett b addition and just keg up ten gallons straight.  initially, a loose-fitting siphon hose introduced some oxygen into the beer line and eliminated suction when racking the beer, but after a quick fix with some zip ties and CO2 pressure the kegs were topped off for carbonating.  the gravity sample had diverse and intense spice and fruit notes – it seems the yeast really liked the high fermentation temps.  I’m definitely looking forward to the finished product in a few weeks!



brett secondary and all-brett amber tasting

Friday, October 5th, 2012

although a round of weddings kept me from firing up the brew kettle these past few weeks, I got around to tapping both my belgian/brett and all-brett versions of my amber ale for a little side-by-side review.

  • to recap, I brewed one base beer (an amber ale) and fermented it three ways – five gallons with only WLP575 belgian blend, five gallons with WLP575 and WLP650 brett brux in secondary, and two gallons with only WLP650.  I dry-hopped all three with an ounce of fuggles for a week before kegging.  below are my reviews for the belgian/brett and all-brett versions.


    • belgian/brett amber (brett b in secondary)
    • appearance: dark copper color, effervescent with lasting head that drops but does not disappear
    • aroma: light estery belgian notes with a slight malt presence
    • taste: malt-forward with an estery belgian finish
    • overall: very drinkable but somewhat ordinary, could use more spicy/herbal hops earlier in the boil*


    • brett brux amber
    • appearance: dark copper, slightly turbid (from fresh carbed keg with hop residue), great creamy, fluffy head that sticks around
    • aroma: spicy/earthy hops with an earthy brett funk in the back
    • taste: creamy mouthfeel with a dry, slightly funky finish
    • overall: refreshing and easy to drink, but could use a little more kick – maybe sub in 10-20% rye and up the boil hops*?


  • *it should be noted that I believe the lack of substantial bitterness was the result of my use of an old steeping bag with mesh clogged with proteins and oils from enduring dozens of boils.  the use of a new bag should overcome this issue.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the significant differences between the all-brett fermentation and the other two versions.  based on my results, I plan of further developing my all-brett amber with a small rye addition and better hop utilization (and maybe adding more earthy/spicy hops such as saaz, willamette, and cluster at 15 mins and flameout).

LA craft beer bloggers summit, hop harvest

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

last weekend I headed over to sunset beer co. in echo park for the second LA craft beer bloggers summit.

  • a while back, kip barnes of bierkast blogging and LA aleworks fame took it upon himself to unite and network local LA area beer bloggers (similar to what jay brooks has done up north with the BABB).  I missed the first summit, but heard about the impressive turnout and was interested in checking out the next gathering.
  • sunset beer co. turned out to be an ideal venue for the meetup, with plenty of space and a great selection both on tap and in the coolers.  the staff were very friendly and accommodating despite the fact that they were likely nursing hangovers from their anniversary party the night before.  as for the LA craft beer bloggers, everyone at the meeting was both passionate and knowledgeable about the beer scene and was a pleasure to talk to.  check out more info at the LACBB facebook page.
  • the main event of the summit was a talk held by dieter foerstner, head brewer of angel city brewery in downtown LA.  he briefed everyone on the status of the brewery (distributing imminently, opening their doors in a few months) and went through some details on a hoppy wheat and IPA that were being passed around.  dieter definitely knows his way around a mash tun and I was pleasantly surprised by his wheat beer, which had great balance and exhibited a unique blend of complementary malt flavors and hop aromas.  during a later conversation, I was flattered to find out that he was a fan of my bottles of white and house saison that I brought to the meetup.  angel city is getting a lot of great press and I’m excited to see where they go from here.

after heading back home from the summit I finally got around to harvesting this year’s hop crop from my backyard.

  • although this year’s chinook yield was paltry compared to previous years’,  my vojvodinas and cascades put out enough cones to easily support a 12 gal. batch, despite an irregular fertilizing schedule.  I’m currently drying the hops and am excited to see how the late-hopped vjovodinas turn out in my latest saison (last year’s cascades and chinooks contributed a nice smooth bitterness to my imperial stout).




homegrown saison

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

with local temps hitting the low 90s, I knew there was only one style I could safely ferment without using a fermentation fridge – saison.

  • although I currently brew a house saison twice a year, that project turned sour quite some time ago, and I was in the mood for a relatively lower gravity beer that showcased local produce from my own backyard (and that I could server to friends who had not yet become accustomed to wild/sour beers).  as a result, I threw together a variation of a classic saison with some sweet orange zest from my backyard valencia orange tree and a homegrown vojvodina hop addition:
    • 18 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 81.8 %
      1 lbs 8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 6.8 %
      1 lbs Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 3 4.5 %
      8.0 oz Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 4 2.3 %
      1 lbs Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM) Sugar 5 4.5 %
      4.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 75.0 min Hop 6 29.8 IBUs
      1.80 oz Orange Peel, Sweet (Boil 5.0 mins) Spice 7
      2.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 8 0.0 IBUs
  • I mashed at 147F and added a small orange’s worth of zest at flame out.  I guess the use of valencia oranges is apropos in a summer saison, since as it turns out valencias are the only orange variety in season during the summer.  I should note that a little zest goes a long way here – less than a tablespoon’s worth of zest was enough to create a pleasing but subtle orange aroma in 12 gallons of wort.
  • I also added to the wort 2.75 oz of last year’s homegrown vojvodinas, which are a hybrid of northern brewer, golding, and a wild yugoslavian hop.  the vojvodinas added some depth and variety to the herbal/spicy saaz hops I also added after the boil.  I also added a pinch of fresh ground pepper to the boil after reading about it a while back over at the mad fermentationist.
  • I hit a starting gravity of 1.058 and added a starter of wyeast 3726 pc farmhouse when the wort cooled to 89F.  you read that right – after reading some illuminating articles and forum posts, I decided to pitch at just under 90F to get the most out of this strain.  fermentation was visible overnight and is still chugging along (despite a surprising lack of krausen/blowoff).  after a month I’m planning on kegging and bottling seven gallons and racking the other five into secondary with some brett b for the long haul.




monkish brewing tour, brett amber kegging, white tasting notes

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed over to torrance to check out monkish brewing co’s tasting room and facility.

  • after sampling a few beers we toured the facility with none other than henry nguyen, who runs the place with his wife adriana.  henry also sourced and assembled every piece of the fifteen barrel brewery himself, and indulged me with some some details about his regular brewing practices.  the beers were great, the tour was fantastic, and the hospitality was unmatched.  thanks again!

I also finally got around to kegging the secondary-brett and all-brett versions of my amber ale after a couple months of exposure.

  • I dry-hopped each of the 5 gallons of secondary-brett and the 2.5 gallons of all-brett with 1 oz. of fuggles for five days, then racked them into 5 and 2.5 gallon corny kegs, respectively.  both beers finished at 1.009, which was the same FG for the non-brett control beer I kegged a month earlier (which may mean the brett needs more time in secondary, or just that the WLP575 is unusually attenuative, since according to my notes I mashed at 156F!).  the fuggles added a great earthy spiciness to the beer’s aroma, and samples of both were promising.  I’m planning on serving the all-brett version soon and giving the secondary-brett version a little more time to work its magic.

additionally, I cracked a bottle of white (blanc) last night for review (and to test for carbonation):

  • appearance: dark brown with reddish hue when held to light, bubbly white head that quickly fades to lacing, great carbonation
  • aroma: fantastic assertive brett, slight fruit
  • taste: intense but satisfying acidity, light oak and stone fruit elements that increase as beer warms, good body with lingering sourness
  • overall: I’m very satisfied with this beer’s interplay between brett and acidity.  the light oak and fruit from racking onto cabrillo’s dregs and cake could be increased for greater effect, especially the cherries, which could really shine here.  I’m thinking about racking onto a bunch of sour cherries during the next batch or serve this batch through a randall stuffed with cherries…




white II, new tap handle

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

after kegging and bottling the first run of white, I saved a few pints of slurry from the fermenter and put together the second version of this sour brown.

  • I only changed up a couple of recipe elements, subbing in my super-low alpha saaz hops for last year’s spalter (for 4 IBUs instead of 16) and mashing higher at 156F (12 gallon all-grain recipe):
    • 22 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 78.6 %
      3 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 2 10.7 %
      2 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM) Grain 3 7.1 %
      1 lbs Carafa III (525.0 SRM) Grain 4 3.6 %
      3.00 oz Saaz [1.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 3.7 IBUs
  •  I ended up taking a long phone call during the mash, which extended my mash time to close to 2 hours.  I’m thinking this helped boost my efficiency, since I ended up with an OG of 17.3 brix (1.072), which was a little higher than I would have liked.  I pitched the saved slurry with a single vial of WLP530, and in less than a day I had a raging fermentation with krausen blasting the cover off of my half barrel fermenter and pouring out the top.  a bout of hot weather forced me to start fermentation at close to 75F, but I have read online that the abbey yeast strain is very temperature tolerant and even thrives at warmer temps, so I have high hopes here.

after waxing and storing my vizcaino bottles for the long haul, I also got around to fabricating my second custom tap handle for my kegerator.

  • after the resounding success of my first tap handle experiment, I made a point to keep an eye out for potential tap handle material during my travels.  while playing some incredible disc golf over at solitude a few weeks ago, I came across a pile of aspen branches and scored a perfectly cylindrical chunk from the bunch.  after a little sawing and drilling, a wood insert nut was tapped into the branch and a new tap handle was born.  now I have reminders of two great trips on display every time I go to grab a pour in the basement.





white bottling, wild beers article, brew something LA meeting

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

after a year and four months in various fermenters, white (aka blanc, aka cuvee de blanc) was due for bottling/kegging.

  • I followed the same yeast and sugar additions as with cabrillo and vizcaino for 10 gallons (5 in the keg and 2 cases of bombers), and bottled the remaining 2 gallons with individual sugar and yeast additions in the bottle.  it will be interesting to see if the bottles go through the diacetyl cycle I have been noticing in my other sours.
  • after letting the blend of different fermenters percolate for a few months, the finished product had inherited traits from each.  with a final gravity of a hair over 7 brix, the beer had a strong brett and fruit aroma as well as an intense sourness intermingling with a solid brett presence (more so than cabrillo).  I’m excited to see how this brew finishes once it is carbed up.
  • I also decided it was time to salvage the yeast slurry from cabrillo that white had been racked onto.  with AP’s help I managed to save a few liters of slurry for repitching, but not before splattering both of us with a mess of yeast, bugs, oak cubes, and disintegrated cherry remains.  AP was not enthused, to say the least.

on another note, a while back, BT from blackmanbrew requested an article on sours/wild beers for his local homebrew club’s newsletter.  after some thought I decided to put together a primer for those considering making the plunge into wild ales.  it includes an analysis of a variety of considerations beginning wild brewers may want to consider.  check it out HERE (PDF link).

last weekend I also decided to tag along for one of the first brew something LA meetups at umamicatessen.

  • the large turnout was indicative of the recent surge within the current LA beer scene – beer reporters, aspiring homebrewers, and commercial brewers all jockeyed for conversation space while taps from smog city and hangar 24 flowed freely.  although the acoustics of the meeting room left much to be desired, the killer sliders and side dishes more than made up for it.  I’m looking forward to seeing what develops in future meetings!




thrashlab videos

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

the thrashlab videos I mentioned earlier have been posted, with cameos by yours truly along with some friends from eagle rock and pacific gravity.  the craft beer/homebrewing video paints a pretty concise picture of the current LA beer scene, and the how to homebrew video is a well-filmed oversimplification of me putzing around in the garage.  enjoy!

the craft beer video:


the homebrewing video:

june PG meeting, house saison IV, thrashlab visit

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

last thursday was the third thursday of the month, and as with all third thursdays, I headed up to culver city for pacific gravity’s monthly meeting.

  • I brought along bottles of my imperial stout and vizcaino for some sensory analysis – vizcaino’s bretty/fruity aroma and golden strong characteristics were well received, and the consensus regarding the imperial stout was that lack of carbonation and high finishing gravity hindered the overall package.
  • as a result, after kegging my clean portion of belgian amber and dosing the other portion with brett b, I individually opened each bottle of my imperial stout and re-yeasted them with red star premier cuvee dry wine yeast.  I contemplated trying a dry ale yeast first, but the beer’s high abv made me doubt that method’s success.  I plan on trying a bottle next week and chilling the bottles once adequate carbonation has been achieved to reduce the risk of overcarbonation.

I also got around to brewing the fourth iteration of my house saison after bottling the third batch last week.

  • keeping with my previous strategy of alternating light and dark variations, I strayed slightly from last year’s recipe with a few modifications, including the use of dark, pungent liquid candi sugar and low-alpha hops early in the boil (12 gal recipe):
    • 18 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 2 72.7 %
      1 lbs 8.0 oz Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.1 %
      1 lbs 8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 4 6.1 %
      1 lbs 4.0 oz Carafa II (412.0 SRM) Grain 5 5.1 %
      1 lbs Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 6 4.0 %
      1 lbs Candi Sugar, Dark (275.0 SRM) Sugar 7 4.0 %
      3.00 oz Saaz [1.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 8 4.1 IBUs
  • I also mashed higher than normal at 156F and hit my target gravity of 1.059 (14.5 brix) exactly due to a smooth sparge/lauter.  I gave my house slurry a couple days head start and then pitched a single vial of WLP566, which took off in a few hours.  after brewing this batch I came to realize that what was once a slight riff on a saison has evolved into sours somewhat comparable to blanc and banning.  as a result, after this batch has been kegged and bottled, I plan on returning to brewing a standard saison (likely with a high finisher like WLP565) with a simple post-fermentation brett addition (maybe some WLP644?).
  • also, during the start of my brew day the crew from thrashlab (specifically, the subculture club derivative) stopped by to film a general homebrewing how-to as well as to interview me about my process/brewing history.  everyone involved was a consummate professional, and filming went fairly smoothly.  it was definitely neat to share my love of homebrewing and hopefully turn some more people on to the hobby.  stay tuned for a link to the final video(s), and be sure to scrutinize all minutiae and call me out on any mistakes…