Archive for April, 2012

april PG meeting, bottling vizcaino

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

last thursday I headed over to culver city for the pacific gravity april meeting.

  • the keg of the month style was scottish/irish/english ales, and although I considered entering my “cascadian small beer” as a dark mild, I ended up chilling a variety of sour offerings to pour out during the meeting.  after seeing how quickly my ’10 lambic went to work on some apricots, I hoped my unblended lambic bottles would have some carbonation, so I brought one along to find out.  I was stoked to see a considerable amount of effervescence when I poured out some samples, and the carbonation really brought out the fruit and sourness of the beer, which was nicely complemented by some assertive funk.  I’m interested to see how this beer evolves over the next few years, and will periodically dust off a bottle (at least once every six months) to document the progression.

I also managed to set aside some time to bottle the next beer in my funky/sour pipeline – vizcaino.

  • vizcaino was somewhat of an afterthought – I had already brewed a golden strong and had set aside a gallon of wort to step up a vial of WLP655, but after bottling a few bottles of the unfunked expression (which actually scored quite well in a comp), I decided to combine the fermented out golden strong with the sour starter on top of 1.5oz of french toasted oak and a few pounds of local wildflower honey, along with some temptation dregs.
  • however, from a souring standpoint, I was entering the game with a few strikes – I had hopped the golden strong to over 30 IBUs, mashed pretty low, and had fermented with an attenuative strain (WLP570).  I also had pitched my bugs when the beer was at 1.02, at which point it was already at an abv of 7.1%, and the honey I added was easily fermentable as a simple sugar.
  • despite the aforementioned microbial adversity, the not-completely-exhausted gravity worked in my favor, and after a few months a decent pellicle had formed.  at bottling I noticed a downplayed sour aroma with hints of fruit and floral elements, and a sample I poured out had some smooth vanilla oak and funky subtleties that I hope will come out with carbonation (I primed the keg and bottles following my methods with cabrillo).
  • however, vizcaino II will be reworked for a more assertive sourness as follows – it will have a lower hopping rate (under 10 IBUs, likely under 5), a higher mash temp (low to mid 150s F), and a little extra wheat (1-2 #s) for body.  I’m also planning on pitching ECY09 abbaye and ECY01 bugfarm slurries simultaneously to give the bugs a head start, and will likely rack onto apricots, peaches, or another light stone fruit at a later date.



strand brewing tap room grand opening, greek easter picnic

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

last saturday AP and I headed out to strand brewing’s tap room grand opening to get a glimpse of the progression of the brewing scene here in socal.

  • after running into friends from naja’s, select beer, and other local spots, we settled in to some pours of white sand double IPA and their beach house amber.  our lunch-time arrival kept our sampling to a minimum, but we got to inspect the brewing and serving premises and meet rich, one of the guys behing strand.
  • located in a business park, with huge fermenters and a minimalistic, tasteful layout, strand brewing’s tap room was a welcome reminder of many breweries found in the pacific northwest and san diego.  hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the area – drink local!

sunday was greek easter, so AP and I loaded up some food and libations and headed to the park.

  • last year’s keg came dangerously close to getting kicked, so this year called for both a corny of my light saison and one of the monster brew saison that I dry-hopped in secondary.  the wyeast 3711 french saison yeast I pitched into the monster brew finished nice and dry, and really helped accentuate the rye and the earthy/spicy tettnanger hops I tossed in post-fermentation.
  • after the smoke cleared, around seven gallons of homebrew had been extinguished by the thirsty easter crowd.  I’m gonna have to start specifically planning for this event in advance next time!



apricot lambic, ladyface ale companie

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

after topping up my lambic solera barrel with a gallon or two of my turbid mash lambic, I had a couple of gallons left over to mess around with.

  • remembering that I had harvested and frozen some local apricots from last season, I chopped them up, tossed them in a three-gallon fermenter, and racked a little over two gallons of lambic onto them.
  • my inspiration came from cantillon’s excellent fou’ foune, an apricot lambic that has become impossible to find around these parts.  I debated including the pits of the fruit in the fermenter, as they are supposed to impart a more intense apricot flavor, but after reading some articles about cyanide (read the comments!) I decided against it.  I’m planning on keeping the lambic on the fruit from six months to a year, based on my schedule and the results of occasional tastings.

on another note, after dropping off a couple bottles of my winter saison in culver city for a homebrew competition, AP and I continued north to agoura hills and ladyface ale companie.

  • in addition to a great bar and even better outdoor patio, ladyface has a comprehensive tap list, with great guest taps and numerous in-house brews.  after running through a sampler flight of all their offerings, standouts included their chesebro IPA on cask and their russian lullaby imperial stout.  I enjoyed their barrel-aged trebuchet as well, especially sitting outside on a hot day, but I felt as though something was missing from the beer (it felt a little one-dimensional and light, with a very slight sourness).
  • I found out later that the fermentation was intentionally limited to lacto to avoid any “barnyard” character, which I find a little confusing for a farmhouse beer.  also, the beer was close to 9% and the lacto was likely added after primary fermentation, which also seems odd to me, since lacto has trouble after around a 7% abv environment.  despite these small critiques, ladyface definitely delivered an enjoyable experience, and I look forward to returning the next time I am in the area.


bottle waxing revisited, sour eisbier, solera update

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

last sunday I waxed another batch of bottles before tucking them away for long-term storage.  however, this time around I encountered a few issues with the results.

  • my original idea was to color-code bottle wax by year for easy reference, so I switched up from last year’s green wax to a different brand of gray polymer wax I had purchased in bulk.  the new wax provided a thicker coat on the bottle than previous attempts, which provided results similar to commercial examples I had seen from commerical breweries such as deschutes.
  • bottling went smoothly for the most part, but I found myself repeatedly refilling my dip can since the viscous wax allowed for a fewer number of bottles to be dipped per batch.  for my last batch I loaded up the can with twice the amount of wax I usually use (3″ diameter X 3″ height vs. my usual 1.5″ height) and subsequently waited about twice as long for the wax to melt.  this larger amount of stored heat energy appeared to compromise the integrity of some of my “large” 29mm bottle caps.
  • more specifically, three large mouth capped bottles of cabrillo displayed a small leak after waxing, one bottle mouth cracked from the heat, and another large cap failed completely, shooting off of the top of the bottle despite the wax reinforcement.
  • that being said, I also waxed all of my winter saison bottles (in standard bombers and caps) with a smaller batch of heated polymer wax, and as of this moment, none are symptomatic.  therefore, I would advise dipping a trial bottle before proceeding with any new polymer wax or cap configuration so as to avoid potentially compromising your brews.

as a result of my waxing incident, I was left with three bottles (two liters) of fresh cabrillo that were threatened with a drain pour.  inspired by armand’s reaction to the drie fonteinen disaster, I decided to ice concentrate the beer to create an “eis sour.”

  • after reviewing posts from the mad fermentationist and homebrewtalk, I poured the beer into plastic bottles and froze them overnight in the freezer.  the next day I ran the ice and leftover liquid into a strainer, with a bowl placed underneath.
  • however, instead of waiting for the beer/ice chips to run clear, I removed the ice mixture as soon as the flow of liquid stalled at around 30 seconds or so, such that none of the ice could melt and dilute the resulting liquid (this made for a much less efficient process with hopefully more concentrated results).  I repeated this process a second time, and ended up with a little over 12 oz. of viscous, aromatic runnings.  based on volume observations and rough guesstimates, the final product should be around 20% abv, with a tasting profile as follows:
    • jurassic beach (eis cuvee de cabrillo)
    • aroma: huge vanilla oak, clean sourness, dense cherry
    • appearance: dark hazy brown, opaque in bottle
    • taste: syrupy, intense tongue-coating sourness and oak; warm finish hits you in your chest
    • overall: sour works well in this format, but 2-3oz. is plenty here

in other news, the solera is going strong (maybe a bit too strong – see pic below), and I celebrated the completion of my latest side project with a pour of my newly-tapped kolsch-turned-saison, which turned out surprisingly well and made for a great lighter, more approachable version of the style.