Archive for March, 2012

santa barbara barrel retrieval

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

last weekend AP and I headed up north to seal the deal on a barrel for my lambic solera project.

  • we drove north of santa barbara to quality wine barrels in arroyo grande where we picked up a neutral barrel.  the seguin moreau french oak bordeaux barrel had been previously filled with cabernet sauvignon at both bridlewood winery and lucas and lewellen.  the barrel was steam cleaned and leak tested just prior to our arrival, and drained upside-down in the back of my truck on the drive back to SB.  the staff at quality wine barrels was friendly and patient, and their prices were more than fair – I walked out with a clean barrel, two-barrel steel rack, and bung for around eighty bucks.

after purging the drained barrel with CO2 and plugging it up, we left the hotel room and headed out on our bikes to explore downtown santa barbara.

on sunday afternoon, after fighting a serious rainstorm back down the coast, it was finally time to fill the barrel.

  • after rinsing the barrel once with hot water (making sure the hot water came in contact with the entirely of the barrel interior), I then rinsed the barrel with cold filtered water and let it drain for around fifteen minutes.  AP and I then lugged the beast downstairs, where I purged it again with a healthy dose of CO2 and filled it up, leaving about five gallons of headspace for krausen from the ongoing fermentation of my last two batches.  fermentation ramped up as soon as all the wort was in the barrel, and soon my airlock was shaking like a weight valve on an old pressure cooker.
  • with 106 lbs. of grain, 1.5 lbs. of aged hops, and over 24 hrs. of labor invested, the lambic solera barrel is definitely the crown jewel of my fermentation room.  hopefully the micro-oxygenation and cellobiose feeding it provides will be good to my yeast, bugs, and wort!




solera prep round 2, march PG meeting

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

this past saturday I managed to crawl back out to the garage and brew the remaining 30 gallons needed to fill my upcoming lambic solera barrel.

  • my recipe remained the same, and I managed to add the unmalted wheat component to the main mash without resulting in a stuck sparge during both of the last two brews by adding 2-3 handfuls of rice hulls to the unmalted mini-mash before adding it to the main mash, resting 3-5 minutes, and then backflushing the mash tun with boiling water before attempting to vorlauf and start the fly sparge.  this resulted in a consistent OG of 1.047 for the last two batches, and an average OG for all four of the combined batches of 1.047.
  • in anticipation of this brew day, I had previously kegged my first (turbid mash) lambic for future blending (and to open up a fermenter), and I pitched a liter of slurry from the old cake into each of the two new batches to kick off fermentation.  the hard part is over – now I just need to nab a barrel (stay tuned)!

last thursday I also headed over to culver city for the march PG meeting.

  • the style of the month was split between stouts and sour ales, so I brought along a keg of cuvee de cabrillo, which had recently carbed up and passed quality control.  even though I had the only sour there, it was a crowd favorite and I took home homebrew keg of the month honors for the second month in a row!  member feedback was very promising and helped validate the long wait (14 months) to enjoy this brew.  I just hope the other batches in my sour lineup fare as well…


lambic solera prep, eagle rock, cabrillo tasting

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

last weekend marked the start of my most ambitious homebrew undertaking yet – the procurement and filling of a 60-gallon solera barrel.

  • since my usual batch size is around 10-13 gallons on a good day, cranking out over 60 gallons of wort appeared *challenging* at first.  however, after some significant research and planning, I decided to suck it up and commit to two 30 gallon brew days.  however, I couldn’t bring myself to engage in a full turbid mash for each session after remembering the significant amount of time associated with the procedure in previous brews.  luckily, I came across jim liddil’s lambic brew page, which proposed some promising turbid mash alternatives for extracting useful dextrins and starches from an unmalted wheat component of the grain bill.  after some number crunching, my final recipe and procedure included the following:
    • GRAIN BILL (15.5 gal wort, 80% efficiency)

16lb belgian pils malt
8 lb american wheat malt
2.5lb unmalted white wheat berries
6 oz aged organic saaz hops (75-90 min*)


-mash 15lbs, 9oz of the pils and the 8lbs of the malted wheat (change up the mash temp for each of the 4 batches – 152F, 153F, 154F, and 155F)
-mash 7oz of the pils and the 2.5 lbs of unmalted wheat at 150F for 30 mins, then add a gallon of boiling water and boil the mixture for 15 mins.
-add the unmalted wheat mash and liquid to the main mash, stir, and sparge with 180+F water (60-75 mins)
-end up with 18 gals of wort (13 in keggle, 5 in turkey fryer), boil for 60-90 mins until 3 gals boiled off (2 in keggle, 1 in fryer)
-chill and pitch yeast – do not aerate

  • some notes from my first of two brewdays – one gallon of water at 161F will result in a mash temp of 150 for the raw wheat and pils (I did the mash on the stovetop).  each of the four batches have a different mash temp to vary the sugar chains available to the yeast and bugs over the years.  adding the viscous unmalted mash to the main mash may result in a stuck sparge (it did for me) – pump hot water through the dip tube to help clear out the pickup and add plenty of rice hulls.
  • after my first mash stuck upon adding the unmalted malt mash, I decided to put just the wort from the unmalted mash into the main mash tun the second time around.  there was no stuck sparge as a result, but my OG took a small hit (batch 1 OG: 1.049/batch 2 OG: 1.046).  I’m debating whether to risk another stuck mash to get an improved efficiency for my last 2 batches, or to just dump the unmalted wort directly into the brew kettle and bypass the mash tun altogether.
  • after cooling the wort overnight, I pitched 2 vials of ECY bugfarm VI into the first batch and pitched a variety pack of roselare, lambic blend, and sour mix I into the second batch.  within 24 hours both batches were chugging away, and by this afternoon krausen had blown out the top of both fermenters.  I’m halfway there!

to celebrate the start of the solera project, AP and I headed over to eagle rock for some great food and killer beers.

I also managed to get in a review of my long-anticipated cuvee de cabrillo after a couple months in the bottle:

  • style: strong sour
  • appearance: good carbonation, healthy initial head that turns to light lacing, dark amber/maple syrup color, transparent when held to light
  • aroma: sour cherry with slight earthiness in back, belgian yeast notes evident upon swirling
  • taste: strong tongue-coating sourness with cherries close behind, sweet vanilla oak finish
  • comments: at 11% I am amazed that this is so sour and also drinks so well.  the medium toast french oak imparts a sweet vanilla note that was overwhelming when the beer was fresh in the bottle and not carbed (it tasted like buttered popcorn jellybeans), but this has faded into a pleasing vanilla finish with age and carbonation.  this one was a ton of work, but the results were worth it.





monster brew at tustin brewing

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

last saturday I headed over to tustin brew co. to get in on a monster brew coordinated by pacific gravity.

  • in short, the head brewer over at tustin brewing, jon porter, is a PG member who occasionally lets the rest of us pipe dreamers help out (and chip in) on a 16 barrel (~500 gallon) batch that is then split up amongst interested parties.  the mash changes with each session – this year the recipe called for roughly 1/3 pils, 1/3 vienna, and 1/3 rye:
    • Monster Brew #4
      Recipe for 16 Barrels (496 gallons):
      300 lbs 2-Row Pilsner  Malt
      300 lbs Vienna Malt
      300 lbs Rye Malt
      20   lbs 65oL Weyermann’s CaraRye Malt
      36 Oz Chinook  11.4% First Wort/Boil
      40 Oz Saaz 2.5% at 15 minutes
      40 Oz Saaz 2.5% at flame-out
      Vital Statistics:
      OG:  1.056 (if I recall correctly, the actual OG was more like 1.064)
      Color:  6 SRM
      IBU: 17
  • brewing started around 6am, although with a half hour drive to tustin the earliest I could manage was 8, and I arrived just at the start of the sparge.  killer beers such as tustin’s groundwork coffee porter and smog city saison were being poured left and right, and guests were free to roam around the brew premises and help out when needed.  having already had my fill of emptying commercial mash tuns over at san pedro brew co., I was more than happy to defer that and other jobs to my compatriots – in fact, my only tangible contribution to the brew day was flipping the switch for the boil kettle.
  • after a great lunch accompanied by a surprising pour of cuvee de tomme, I nabbed my 10 gallons of wort and headed home, where I pitched a healthy starter of ECY09 belgian abbaye into five gallons and wyeast 3711 french saison into the other five.  both fermentations took off vigorously, and the ECY09 batch managed to blow krausen out the top of the fermenter even with the use of foam control.  I plan on dry-hopping the saison and kegging both in a week or so.  I also plan on returning to tustin brew co. with AP in the near future to get in on some more great beers and food.  thanks again to everyone who helped make this happen!