phantom carriage: barreling batch 4 and brewing batch 5

April 3rd, 2013 by admin


stacking

over the past week a lot has been happening over at the phantom carriage.

  • first, a full batch of brett saison (french saison yeast with a brett trois/drie kicker in primary) crept below 1.01 in the conicals, so it was time to rack it into barrels.  the brett accentuated the saison yeast nicely and gave it a nice earthy tropical fruit kick.  hopefully three months in barrels will round out the beer even more (I got some baking spice, vanilla, and sweet vinous notes from the barrels as they were being filled).  I can also see some dry-hopping in the cards…
  • next, it was time to fill the void left by the saison with another wild creation.  this time, 14bbls of blonde ale based on my all-brett blonde experiment hit the stainless and was introduced to a sizable pitch of the brett trois strain (which I selected from the three trial strains due to its great aroma and flavor contributions as well as its strong and relatively rapid fermentation).  this batch was special – it will be the phantom carriage’s first release!  more info is imminent, so keep an eye out for updates!

trying out the sparge arm               churning away

the stack keeps growing...

bottling cabrillo II

March 27th, 2013 by admin

draining the fermentor

last sunday, after delabeling and rinsing a case of bottles, I finally got around to bottling cabrillo II.

  • ten months of exposure to cherries and french oak were very kind to the beer – it has an amazing sour cherry and slightly oaky aroma.  the fruit came through nicely in the beer’s flavor, complementing smooth vanilla notes and an intense overall acidity. 
  • the beer finished at 10 brix (1.009) on the dot, for an ABV of 10.67%.  I mashed a little higher for this second iteration, which resulted in a little more body for an improved overall balance.  I also saved three pints of slurry for a future phantom carriage brew.  I’m really excited for this one to carb up!

in the bottling bucket               slurry

bottles

 

barrel development at phantom carriage

March 19th, 2013 by admin

down the line

over the last few months MS and I have been working on developing the barrel program for the phantom carriage.

  • since the inception of the project, three batches (two based on banning and one based on white) have been fermented and barreled with great initial results.  the oldest filled barrels are only a month in, but some are already deviating from the pack (for example, a barrel into which an older east coast yeast slurry was pitched is already exhibiting a slightly higher gravity and stronger acidity than its peers).
  • the youngest set of filled barrels is also primed for diversity – varying primary saccharomyces strains were pitched into some barrels and plenty of dregs from some outstanding bottles have been making their way into the lineup.  stay tuned for more developments as the racks grow taller and the bugs work their magic!

taking a peek               running comparisons

moving around

 

firestone walker journey to the center of the barrel

March 9th, 2013 by admin

FW_SimonFord_8_barrel room2

last weekend I met up with other members of the la beer bloggers to embark on what would turn out to be an unforgettable beer expedition.

  • as guests of firestone walker, we were given an all-access pass to the brewery, barrel houses, and environs in an attempt to experience what sets FW apart from other craft breweries.  after a quick trip up north on a chartered bus (made quicker by a bottle share and a steady supply of 12 oz firestone staples provided by our gracious host), we arrived not at the brewery but windrose farm, a local family farm that provides produce to FW’s restaurant.  bill and barbara, who live on and run the farm, kept everyone educated and entertained with discussions of biodynamic practices and responsible agriculture while we feasted on freshly picked greens and house-raised lamb expertly prepared by FW’s head chef and paired with an intense lineup of FW specialties ranging from bretta weiss to parabola.
  • after hitching a tractor ride back to the bus, we headed over to the brewery, where matt brynildson and dustin kral gave us the VIP tour.  beers in hand, we went from the brewhouse to the lab to the roof of the facility, finally ending up in the barrel house, where dustin grabbed a thief and proceeded to pour everyone a three-barrel flight of a one-off beer aged in straight oak, bourbon, and tequila barrels.  minds already blown, we were then whisked away to herman story wines, where winemaker russell had a full spread and barrel sampling lineup at the ready.  after a few more hours of debauchery we ended the night at FW’s taproom restaurant with some great eats and a homebrew share (punctuated by some on-the-spot homebrew/food pairing suggestions by FW’s head chef).
  • the next morning, having shook the cobwebs out of our heads and limbered up, we headed down to buellton to check out FW’s new barrelworks facility.  “sour jim,” the resident master blender, gave us a tour of the growing barrel stacks and set us up with a wild beer blending session after a fantastic lunch.  after the session, GN sweet-talked jim into supplying us with some sample bags to take home some barrel bugs, and after talking shop for a while (over a full flight of FW one-offs and wild beers) jim snuck us back to the barrel room, where he started pulling nails and let us in on some of his long-term projects.  the trip finished off with a drive down the coast and yet another bottle share.
  • oh, and the kicker? the whole even was hosted by david walker, the co-founder himself.  david was a generous, receptive, and intelligent host who made everyone feel at home in paso robles.  the event left me with not only a great admiration for the care, passion, and innovation FW brings to the craft brew game, but also with a profound respect for all parties involved with the beer scene in paso robles and the surrounding areas.  that sixer of DBA in my fridge never looked so good.

FW_SimonFord_1_tractorride2

FW_SimonFord_5_table2                          FW_SimonFord_15_david talking

FW_SimonFord_16_tractor thanks

FW_SimonFord_17_brewery2

FW_SimonFord_18_brewery2               FW_SimonFord_21_lab

FW_SimonFord_9_kingsley fill up2                                  FW_SimonFord_25_winery_fillup

FW_SimonFord_12_winery             FW_SimonFord_13_winery

FW_SimonFord_27_barrelworks outside2                 FW_SimonFord_32_blending at barrelworks

FW_SimonFord_28_sampling the wild barrels

FW_SimonFord_31_dba at barrelworks               FW_SimonFord_30_logo

FW_SimonFord_4_hosts

 

barrel racking at phantom carriage

February 25th, 2013 by admin

fill er up

a week or two ago the first phantom carriage batch was transferred to oak for the long haul.

  • 14bbl of wild blonde was racked into seven neutral red oak barrels (a mix of hungarian and french) that had been left to soak overnight.  the barrels appeared to be freshly dumped and had a great vinous aroma during filling.
  • true to form, the wild blend used for the batch acted slow and steady, and along with a high mash temp, resulted in a gravity hovering around 1.03 when the beer hit the wood.  this relatively high amount of residual long-chain sugars should provide plenty of food for all the resident microbes to work their magic.  now the waiting game begins!  

IMG_8622

 

IMG_8607               IMG_8638

IMG_8633

IMG_8642

 

 

 

 

colorado – denver, boulder, longmont

February 20th, 2013 by admin

clock tower in denver

a couple of weeks ago AP and I headed out to colorado to see what this hyped up beer state had to offer.

  • highlights in denver included freshcraft (great beers and service – hi Dan!), great divide (comfortable but remarkably small when compared to their level of distribution), cheeky monk (fantastic non-local draft selection), crooked stave (great wild beers, inspiring), bull & bush (a must-visit classic),  hops & pie (great food, good beer selection, great atmosphere), and small batch liquors (outstanding local and rarities selection, fantastic service).  to top it off, stranahan’s distillery hosted an unreal tasting tour, and their adjacent restaurant, the rackhouse pub, had great food and all the booze any hound could wish for.
  • boulder was a little different – spots like twisted pine and avery (surprisingly) left me disappointed with the beers, food, and service.  luckily, upslope brewing saved the day with a great tasting room, beers, and conversation, and the local whole foods wine & spirits blew my mind with a comprehensive local selection.  nearby oskar blues in longmont came through with a fantastic draft list and some good eats as well.
  • it may be a while until I head back to the rockies (GABF, anyone?), but I can definitely say I enjoyed my visit.  warm hospitality, great food, and a notable beer selection make colorado a worthwhile stop for a beer geek jonesing for a weekend trip.

great divide hops               great divide fermentor

great divide hardware

hops & pie               crooked stave

cheeky monk

hosing down great divide               tiny glass at avery

stills at stranahans

stranahans conicals               white dog from the source

barrel room at stranahans

 

shaking out a few at stranahans               crooked stave

lineup at river north

ready to go

LA beer bloggers/golden road winter situational; inaugural phantom carriage brewday

February 4th, 2013 by admin

starting the boil

last tuesday AP and I headed up to golden road to participate in their “winter situational” meetup with the LA beer bloggers.

  • the event was at chloe’s, a private club adjacent to the main brewpub.  they had homebrewers/authors drew beechum and john palmer speaking, complimentary drafts pouring, and great food offerings.  I definitely have to hand it to golden road for embracing the blogosphere and throwing an impressive event to foster community and connectivity amongst both brewers and writers.  bierkast’s review can be found HERE, and I uploaded some pics from the event HERE.

in other news, the first batch of phantom carriage beer was pumped out last weekend.

  • 14bbl of wort inspired by banning were racked into two 7bbl fermentors, and will be shortly transferred to barrels for the long haul.  as usual, more details are forthcoming, but there are some awesome projects in the works!

vorlauf               the mash/lauter tun

into the boil kettle

vorlauf               cleaning out the mash tun

draining the last runnings

for the farm               ready and waiting

thats a lotta yeast

dark house II bottling/kegging/racking

January 27th, 2013 by admin

slurry and friends

seven months had passed since I pitched my house slurry into my dark saison wort, so I broke out my autosiphon, a keg, and some bottles and got busy.

  • the beer finished at 1.005 (6.5 brix) for a final ABV reading of 7.07%.  my gravity sample had an assertive, rich fruit aroma and a smoother sourness than what I remembered from my first dark saison batch.
  • in addition to kegging five gallons and bottling close to five more, I also racked around 2.5 gallons onto 2lb., 2 oz of frozen persimmons from my earlier harvest in celebration of my last last “sour” saison for the forseeable future (although I did save the slurry, so you never know…).  after six months the fruited batch will be bottled, and we’ll see how the delicate persimmon notes add to the total package here (or if they can stand up to the already prominent fruit presence in the beer).

racking               the source

bottling

 

lambic solera update

January 21st, 2013 by admin

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

January 14th, 2013 by admin

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