Archive for May, 2012

secondary brettanomyces addition analysis, tasting

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

after sampling an older bottle of temptation last week, I was inspired to delve more into secondary brettanomyces fermentations.

  • initially, I read up on temptation’s powerful effervescence and dry, earthy funk.  it turns out that although most all clone recipes for temptation call for healthy additions of lacto and pedio, the real star in temptation is the brett.  in fact, vinnie himself notes that he “like[s] the Temptation for its straightforward Brett character” and that “[o]ver time, some Lacto and Pedio have infused in the beer, but it is minimal.”
  • tasting temptation made me realize that having a brett-specific beer in the lineup could be a refreshing accompaniment to sour-focused beers.  in fact, although I only detected a mild acidity in the beer, the complexity of the oak, carbonation, and earth made for a great experience.  therefore, I compiled a group of beers that included brett-based secondary fermentations for comparison:
    • orval (~1 yr old based on label)
      • appearance: amazing fluffy head that keeps expanding after the pour, vigorous fine carbonation, darker golden color (likely from an extended boil)
      • aroma: subtle, rich earth with spicy european hop notes
      • taste: spicy hop back with subtle, balanced earthy brett notes, delicate esters when glass warms
      • overall: I can see why this brew’s reputation precedes it – there is a very well balanced interplay between the hop bitterness and brett
    • rayon vert (relatively fresh)
      • appearance: slightly lighter than orval, still a solid gold with great head and carbonation
      • aroma: fresh, vibrant earthy hops
      • taste: less bitter hop back than orval, more assertive funk, still well balanced
      • overall: a great west-coast twist on a classic, fresh, balanced, and drinkable
    • matilda (2010)
      • appearance: golden color, almost identical to rayon vert (orval is darker)
      • aroma: sweet, oxidized malt
      • taste: sweet (almost cloying), slightly estery, oxidixed like an old barleywine
      • overall: not in the same ballpark as the other two, no brett character at all (maybe earlier versions are more bretty?)
  • In the end, I walked away with some observations and a few ideas for the future:
    • I was amazed by how well the fresh earthy dry-hop character of rayon vert complemented the earthy funk provided by the brett.  it was my favorite of the bunch, and gave me a little insight as to what orval may taste like before its journey westward.  I definitely need to set aside a four-pack to see what some age does to the bottles.
    • as much as I enjoyed the “slight brett in the pale ale” profile, I preferred the overwhelming brett character provided by the long-term oaked secondary fermentation of temptation to the at-bottling brett dosage from orval and rayon vert.  as a compromise, I’m thinking of mashing high (~155F), fermenting out with a belgian sacc strain for a week (or maybe just 2-3 days), adding brett B and orval dregs, letting the brett work itself out for six months, then dry hopping for a week and bottling/kegging.  that, and darkening the grist to add a little more body.  stay tuned…




may PG meeting, cider, belgian small beer, temptation notes

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

the third thursday of may was last week, which meant that I was headed to culver city for PG’s monthly meeting.

  • the monthly style was IPAs, which drew a ton of kegs (12+) and commercial bottles as well as a great crowd (the raffle was especially entertaining).  after resting my blown-out palate, I pulled the cork from a bottle of my cider, which had just turned the corner after being sick with pedio for several months (a good thing!).  I was pleased with the results and held a more detailed (and lupulin-free) tasting last night.
    • basque cider
    • appearance – pale gold, great clarity, very slight carbonation
    • aroma – earthy funk, sweet cooked apple, spice
    • taste – clean, light funk up front with a lingering apple finish, mellow acidity
    • notes – although not as funky as I would have hoped (aroma was stronger than actual taste), this is a great alternative to a standard cider and a good intro to the wild side for the uninitiated
  • I also had a chance to try out a small beer I had made in the parti-gyle method while sparging vizcaino II.  I collected around six gallons of wort at around 6 brix and pitched a starter of WLP500 that I decided to leave out of my main batch.  after adding about 1/3 gal of leftover sour cherry juice from cabrillo II, the beer finished at 2.8 brix for an abv of around 2.6%.
    • pinky (belgian small beer)
    • appearance – golden apricot color, fine effervescence, fluffy white head
    • aroma – light floral belgian yeast, clove spice, slight belgian phenols
    • taste – light and crisp with a dry, slightly bitter finish, palate scrubbing carbonation
    • notes – good budweiser sessionable alternative, lawnmower beer, could use during a tasting as a palate refresher
  • I also managed to choke down a three-year-old, delightfully bretty bottle of temptation (004X1) and pitch the dregs into vizcaino II.  it had been a while since I had tried that beer and I was somewhat surprised to find very little lacto or pedio sourness in the flavor profile – just a very assertive brett character reminiscent of orval that provided a fluffy, long lasting head and great carbonation.  hopefully some of that brett character comes through in vizcaino!



cabrillo II, blanc updates; diacetyl observations

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

a little while back I decided it was time to rack cabrillo II onto cherries and oak.

  • primary fermentation had been chugging along for close to four months, and since my first batch‘s ten months on fruit and wood imparted plenty of cherry and vanilla notes, I figured it was time to act.
  • this time around I went with around 116oz of tart cherries (likely closer to 100oz after separating the juice/water) and 1.5 oz of toasted french oak.  the initial batch of cabrillo’s 2.5 oz of oak initially dominated the beer with intense vanilla and took a few months to tone down, so I’m hoping the lower amount and shorter exposure complements the final product while allowing the cherries to shine a little more.

after racking cabrillo II, I decided to rack blanc onto the lees, oak, and remaining cherry pomace in cabrillo II’s primary fermenter.

  • I figured the bugs from cabrillo had already proven themselves as reliable and could only add more complexity to blanc.  since blanc was fermented in three separate containers, I also had a feeling that the three portions would need to be blended together in order to achieve a more consistent final product.  to test this theory, I compared samples from each fermenter during racking:
    • blanc A (3 gallon better bottle):
      • visible pellicle during fermentation
      • funky, sour aroma
      • aggressively sour body and finish
      • FG: 6 brix
    • blanc B (sealed corny keg under slight CO2 pressure):
      • no pellicle visible upon opening
      • burst of bretty diaper upon opening keg
      • strong brett/funky nose with hint of fruit
      • more fruity sourness with a dry, bretty finish (not as acidic as A)
      • FG: 7 brix
    • blanc C (sealed corny keg under slight CO2 pressure):
      • fruity brett aroma
      • acidic, fruity sourness
      • clean, bretty finish
      • FG: 7 brix
  • based on my observations, it seems that the additional oxygen allowed in by the better bottle increased both attenuation as well as perceptible sourness in the beer.  I should note that both the aroma and the taste of the better bottle-fermented portion seemed similar to my sanke keg-fermented sours (each of which had significant headspace in the keg).  since brett is anerobic, it seems that it thrived in the pressurized CO2 environment provided by the sealed corny kegs.

as a side note, after perusing some articles on homebrewtalk and the BBB I have come to the realization that the initial buttered-popcorn-jellybean flavor that initially dominated cabrillo I in the bottle was likely diacetyl produced by pediococcus, accentuated with vanilla imparted by the oak.

  • after checking my notes, it seems I didn’t notice any buttery flavors out of the fermenter, but after a few weeks in the bottle the flavor was dominant.  it seems that the pedio kicked out a lot of diacetyl upon bottling (maybe due to oxygen exposure during the bottling process?) and that the brettanomyces still in suspension cleaned up most of the diacetyl while in the bottle (I still can taste a fleeting note of sweet butter every now and again while pouring cabrillo I on draft, but it is hard to find in the bottles).
  • the lesson here? if the diacetyl was noticeable in the fermenter I would have likely waited it out while the brett cleaned up, but it is nice to know that the brett can still perform cleanup in the bottle/keg if need be.


southern california homebrewers festival 2012

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

last weekend I packed up the truck and drove out to lake casitas for the annual southern california homebrewers festival.

  • the weeks leading up to the event were full of hype – thousands of homebrewers and hundreds of taps were to convene at an idyllic location for an eleven-hour pouring session.  I was a little apprehensive at first, but by the time the smoke cleared late saturday night, it was clear the festival had delivered in spades.
  • a great variety of beers were on draft all day, from awesome gruits and tasty barrel-aged projects to jalapeno stouts and truly “herbal” pale ales.  there were also tons of unique meads, oude geuzes and bruins, and satisfying riffs on IPAs (this was in addition to a six-year flight of SN bigfoot, a three-year flight of la folie, and a bottle of unibroue 11 anniversary, amongst many others, that were circulated back at camp).
  • after sampling dozens of beers over the hours I realized I had barely scratched the surface of what was offered, but plenty of  food, hydration, and pacing left me in good shape on sunday morning.  pacific gravity organized a great camp site and the weather was great all weekend, which made for an awesome experience.  I’m already looking forward to next year!
  • the flickr set of additional photos can be found HERE.




vizcaino II

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

as mentioned last week, after bottling vizcaino, my latest pipeline beer, I reformulated the recipe and strategy for the second batch in order to optimize desired characteristics in the beer (namely, complex funk and sourness).

  • specifically, I changed up the recipe by adding some wheat and reducing simple fermentables and IBUs, as follows (11gal recipe):
    • 26.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 78.79 %
      5.00 lb Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 15.15 %
      3.00 oz Saaz [1.00 %] (90 min) Hops 4.0 IBU
      2.00 lb Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 6.06 %
  • I also mashed at 154 and boiled down from 13 gallons in 90 minutes.  a boil over and fast sparge left me with an OG of 1.084, which at first was a bit disappointing (I had shot for 1.091) until I realized that if my fermentation goes as planned the final product will be anywhere from 10.5-11%abv.  I’m planning on racking onto apricots after six months (at which point in time I may rack the next batch of banning onto the yeast cake) and bottling/kegging after another six.
  • as for yeast, after much thought I pitched a second-generation slurry of ECY01 bugfarm blend VI that I had stepped up in about 800mL of starter wort over the course of a couple of days.  since the blend supposedly contains multiple varieties of saison yeast, I decided to forgo any other additions.  after about 12 hours the blend had attacked the wort and had the airlock aggressively churning.  I love this stuff!