Posts Tagged ‘cuvee de cabrillo’

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.

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.





cuvee de cabrillo II, mohawk bend

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

after impatiently waiting and slowly building my sour pipeline, the time had finally come to bottle the first of my four annual house sours: cuvee de cabrillo.

  • after a year in the fermenter (and close to ten months on cherries and oak), the beer had dropped to a FG of 1.0038, for a final abv of 11%.  I am also happy to report a great cherry aroma and a significant complex sourness, which I’m guessing is attributable to the robust cascade lacto and/or the cuvee de tomme “superbug” dregs I pitched around nine months back.  despite the growing trend of “quick” sours, I feel that the only way to get a satisfying multi-dimensional sourness is to wait out a long-term fermentation.
  • after cleaning, corking, and caging a mess of reused belgian bottles (which turned out to be a monster pain in the ass and something I’m not planning on repeating anytime soon), I tweaked a couple of variables in the cabrillo recipe for the replacement batch by subbing in low-alpha hops and a little more chocolate and special B malts (11 gals, 80% efficiency):
    • 22 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 64.7 %
      2 lbs Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) Grain 2 5.9 %
      2 lbs Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) Grain 3 5.9 %
      2 lbs Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.9 %
      2 lbs White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) Grain 5 5.9 %
      1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 6 2.9 %
      1 lbs Special B Malt (180.0 SRM) Grain 7 2.9 %
      2 lbs Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (1.0 SRM) Sugar 8 5.9 %
      3.00 oz Saaz [1.00 %] – Boil 120.0 min Hop 9 3.8 IBUs
  • after close to a two-hour boil, I ended up with an SG of 1.091, which was right on target for the recipe.  after cooling the wort overnight to 66F, I racked it directly onto the oak, cherries, and yeast/bug slurry of the previous batch.  I’m planning on letting the bottles carb up for a month or so before I pour one out to see the final product.
  • note that to ensure adequate carbonation, rehydrated wine yeast was added to both the keg and bottling bucket at the rate of 1gram/100mL warm water/5gals beer, and 5.8oz of dissolved and cooled cane sugar was added to the bottling bucket, while 4oz. dry cane sugar was added to the keg.
  • AP and I also celebrated the weekend by heading over to mohawk bend, an echo park gastropub from the guy who thought up tony’s darts away.  beers and spirits are CA-only, and most of the (vegan-centric) food is sourced within the state as well.  AP and I washed down some mussels, quinoa salad, and vegan burgers with some tasty brews like craftsman’s IPA and el segundo’s double summit dry hopped blue house pale.  although the location results in a hipster-dense atmosphere, the food, beers, and service were fantastic, and mohawk bend is definitely on my short list of key players in the LA beer scene.



new fermenters, racking, hops, and BBQ

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

after having some difficulties procuring additional half-barrel stainless kegs for fermenting, I finally pulled the trigger on some 15 gallon barrels from US plastics.

  • I had initially dismissed these plastic barrels for long-term aging, but after more research I decided to give them a shot.  not only are they significantly cheaper than kegs, an airlock easily fits into their screw-off cap after five seconds of drilling.
  • after cleaning and sanitizing one of the new barrels, I purged it with a little CO2 and racked my golden strong (both the 10 straight gallons and 1 sour mix gallon) into it on top of 2.5 lbs of PV wildflower honey and 1.5 oz of french oak soaked in zinfandel for a couple of hours.  the golden strong had dropped to 11 brix, for a pre-honey ABV of around 7.25%.
  • I also tossed some ’09 cuvee de tomme dregs into my similarly-styled cuvee de cabrillo.  the CdT had great carbonation and was intensely sour, much more so than I remember when having it on draft.  I’m thinking this was due to the couple of years spent in the bottle.  hopefully the alleged superbugs in CdT will help add some sourness to my batch over the long haul.
  • also, after racking the golden strong, I tossed 4 oz of fresh amarillo and 2 oz of fresh columbus hops into my house IPA.  I’m planning on kegging this weekend and consuming soon thereafter for maximum hoppiness.
  • speaking of hops, my earlier transplant seems to be successful, as the cascade crown is aggressively pushing out shoots.  I trimmed back all but four runners and have my fingers crossed for some serious growth.
  • I also managed to enjoy the long-overdue socal sun over at PR and HB’s BBQ, where my kolsch poured alongside some great grilled veggies and marinated chicken.  summer can’t come fast enough…

patersbier, wild yeast, cuvee update

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

on saturday I decided to brew a fairly neutral, yeast-forward beer to test out my newly harvested wild strain.

  • I came across a simple recipe from northern brewer online (pdf link) for a patersbier and figured it was just the ticket.
  • I doubled up the recipe as follows:
    • 18.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 100.00 %
      2.00 oz Tradition [6.00 %] (60 min) Hops 22.0 IBU
      1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] (10 min) Hops 2.7 IBU
  • I mashed low (148) and added 2 oz. of 8% AA tradition hops, which was for the best since 1.5 gals of wort disappeared during the boil and I ended up with an OG of 1.051 (target was 1.047).
  • I pitched a starter of WLP500 trappist into 5.5 gals of the wort, and pitched a significant amount of my stepped-up wild yeast slurry into a little over 4 gallons.  both were chugging away by sunday morning.

I also managed to rack my cuvee de cabrillo onto some oak and cherries during the brew day.

  • I first had a taste of each of the individual ferments: (A) sour mix/cascade apricot dregs; (B) roselare blend/drie fonteinen dregs/T-58 slurry; and (C) straight T-58 slurry
    • aroma notes: (A) is clean, fruity, with a clean booziness; (B) has more of a dirty fruitiness, with some bubble gum; (C) is sweet, boozy
    • taste notes: (A) is clean, with a light sourness and a dry finish; (B) is fruity, dry, and clean, with a hint of tartness; (C) is hot, boozy, and oxidized with some fruit
    • gravity: (A) FG: 1.019, ABV: 9.17%; (B) FG: 1.013, ABV: 9.81%; (C) FG: 1.011, ABV: 10.05%
  • I then racked ~120 oz. of sour cherries and 2.5 oz. of toasted white finishing oak into a sanke keg.  I soaked the oak in maker’s mark bourbon overnight.
  • after racking (A) and (B) onto the cherries and oak, I noticed some fermentation kick up by the next day.  I kept the slurry from (A) in a gallon jug and racked a quarter gallon of the patersbier wort onto it to keep it busy.  I’ve got high hopes for this one!


cuvee fermentation update

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

when AP and I packed up to head for big bear this weekend, the two corny kegs of cuvee had me worried.

  • neither showed any signs of activity (read: visible blowoff), and although this was the first time I had fermented in cornelius kegs, I knew something was up.  I also remembered that my roselare pack was from an older batch (early ’10) and my sour mix vial didn’t show as much activity as earlier vials had (after warming to room temperature, they usually gush down the vial sides into my wort – this one seemed pretty tame in comparison).
  • I vowed to take quick action if conditions hadn’t changed by the time we returned on sunday.
  • after unloading our gear sunday afternoon, I dropped by the cellar for a status check.  what I saw was disheartening – still no visible activity.  after popping the lid of the sour mix keg, I was relieved to see a strong krausen, and after sealing the keg gasket with some lube, the blowoff started bubbling away.  however, when I cracked open the roselare keg, I was greeted with nothing but the sweet aroma of unfermented wort.
  • luckily, when I initially racked the wort into the kegs, I was left with about a gallon extra, which I had fermented out with a dry pack of safbrew T58 (PDF link!), effectively resulting in a gallon starter.
  • after reading up on the pros and cons of the yeast, I decided to pitch a significant amount of the propagated slurry into the roselare keg.  the T58 doesn’t seem to be that attenuative, so there should be plenty of sugars left for the bugs to get at over time (assuming that the alcoholic environment doesn’t hinder too much activity).
  • in less than 24 hours the T58 keg was violently blasting CO2 and krausen, much to my relief.  my long term plans for this brew include a primary fermentation in kegs for six months, then blending the two kegs over a large amount of sour cherries and the yeast cake slurry from my (hopefully bottled) saison for another six.
  • as a side note, when in big bear, check out their only local brewery – big bear mountain brewery.  it gets rocked on beeradvocate, but their pils and dopplebock were pretty tasty and go well with some fried green beans.
  • also, FYI, the SF beer week calendar has been posted, so get ready.