Friday, July 15, 2016

Witbier Attempt 2

Orange peels were zested with a cheese grater. Under the 17g of peel is the 10g of coriander and 1g of grains of paradise. I also added 4g of chamomile.

It's been a long time since I attempted to brew a witbier. While that beer was alright at first, it seemed to develop a metallic taste over time  and ended up not being all that enjoyable. For this attempt I hoped to use some of the advice I've learned over time, especially from Randy Mosher's great Radical Brewing. Some of those tips include using fresh citrus peel, opting for Indian coriander, and adding chamomile into the mix. I also threw in some of my own twists by including grains of paradise and including 3 types of wheat (unmalted (raw), torrified, and malted) and golden naked oats, along with 6-row barley (more on that in another post).

4 different adjuncts: bottom/right: malted wheat, left: golden naked oats, top center: torrified wheat, top right (small amount of light colored grains) unmalted (raw) wheat.
Note to self: use rice hills when brewing a wheat beer. This one got so stuck trying to runoff I ended up disconnecting the barb on the out spigot from where it attaches to the inlet under the false bottom, making sure that there was no chance of runoff. I ended up having to put the wort/grains through a double colander filtering setup. Very low efficiency rate, tons of frustration, plenty of lost wort and grains spilled everywhere, but hopefully all is not lost as I still ended up with a wort that showed moderate signs of fermentation less than 12 hours after pitching.

In the end I added 6 oz. of dry wheat malt extract to the 6 gallons of pre-boil wort to up the gravity from the drastically low 1.025 level. 


Fermentables





Amount
Fermentable
Maltster
Use
PPG
Color
4.5 lb
6-Row (US)
Any
Mash
35
1 °L
2.0 lb
Torrified Wheat
Any
Boil
36
2 °L
1.0 lb
Unmalted Wheat (BE)
Any
Boil
36
2 °L
1.0 lb
Wheat Malt (DE)
Any
Boil
37
2 °L
0.5 lb
Golden Naked Oats (UK)
Any
Boil
33
10 °L
0.35 lb
Dry Malt Extract - Wheat
Any
Boil
42
3 °L
Hops





Amount
Hop
Time
Use
Form
AA
1.0 oz
East Kent Golding (UK)
30 min
Boil
Pellet
5.00
Yeasts





Name
Lab/Product
Attenuation



Belgian Wit Ale Yeast
White Labs WLP400
0.76



Extras





Amount
Name
Time
Use


1.0 g
Grains of Paradise
5.0 min
Boil


4.0 g
Chamomile (Dried)
5.0 min
Boil


10.0 g
Coriander Seed
5.0 min
Boil


16.0 g
Orange Peel
5.0 min
Boil


Mash steps





Step
Heat Source
Target Temp
Time


Protein Rest
Infusion
115.0 °F
15 min


Saccharification Rest
Infusion
155.0 °F
60 min


Friday, June 17, 2016

Belgian Golden Strong Tasting

I decided it would be a fun experience to taste test my "Belgian golden strong" side by side with Duvel, the commercial staple of the style.

Appearance: both beers are light blonde, with white heads, with mine being barely lighter in color and slightly more hazy. The most striking difference is clearly the huge head and tons of lacing created by the Duvel (pictured on the left) compared to my tiny ring of bubbles.

Smell: mine gives lemon, bubblegum, banana, spice, herbal hoppiness. Duvel gives a much more malt forward profile with crackers and toast leading and just light banana and pear.

Taste: mine gives light lemon tartness, vanilla, and white wine characters up front followed by a moderate to high bitterness and some noticeable alcohol. Duvel is much maltier with just light fruitiness, spicy hop character and moderate bitterness that gives a long pleasing finish with no alcohol presence.

Mouthfeel: mine is super thin with very low carbonation, it certainly needs more time in the keg. Duvel is dry but fuller bodied than mine with very high carbonation.

Overall: two takeaways from this tasting: my beer is quite different from Duvel and Duvel is better but mine has its own charm. I assume a large difference between the two is the base malt used with Duvel likely being 100% Belgian Pilsner, whereas mine was primarily a blend of American 2-row and German Pilsner. Duvel is a lot like a Leffe on steroids, and I think the Belgian Pilsner malt is what really gives these beers their defining character with the yeast and hops playing noticeable but secondary parts. My beer is lacking in the malt department with the pale malt presence giving only a tiny bit of sweet, neutral character and the hops and yeast dominating. It will be interesting to see if this beer improves with some more time and adequate carbonation but it is enjoyable, if not to style, as is. Were I to brew it again I would likely use up to 50% of a Belgian Pilsner malt to give more of that character and maybe dial the amount of sugar back to eliminate the noticeable alcohol.

Note: a few months after this taste test my beer has developed increasing sourness over time, adding to the lemony character. The beer has also developed an intriguing light spice (pepper/cinnamon?) character that I like. I believe there may have been resident microbes in the bucket I brewed the beer in and the extended time in the keg at low temperatures have allowed them to give off just a little character.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Belgian Golden Strong and Smoked Helles Parti-gyle

Just over 2 years ago I brewed a series of Belgians, including an interesting take on a Belgian Golden Strong. Belgian Golden Strong Ales (BGSAs) have been one of my favorite styles since the first time I tried Duvel Green on my 21st birthday and was opened to a whole new world of Belgian beer. With only one beer currently in my kegerator I decided I should throw together something that could be both interesting and refreshing now that spring is here. I also didn't want to solely commit to a BGSA and decided it would be a good time to perform a pseudo parti-gyle in order to get 2 different beers.

I decided that the smaller beer could be a good base for my third attempt at lagering since the kegerator/ferment chamber had space available. Playing around with the numbers I realized that by adding just a little pale malt, and some specialty malts I would be able to make a smoked Helles. While I haven't had a smoked Helles before, it seemed like another fitting beer for spring with a balance of both intriguing components and moderate drinkability.

I brewed the beers on the last day of winter in a cold mix of rain, sleet, and snow. While the weather added some difficulty and I didn't do everything quite as efficiently as I could have, the day went well overall and hopefully I'll come out of it with 2 tasty beers for only a couple hours more work than I would have had to do for 1. The addition of grains required a second mash and made this not a true parti-gyle but allowed me to give more variability to the beers produced and I plan to perform similar split batch procedures in the future. One goal moving forward will be to better line up the timing for the two batches to minimize how much additional time is required.

Designing the two recipes was a somewhat iterative process as I came up with a general idea for each recipe separately, then used a parti-gyle calculator to identify that I would need a 1.045 OG at 6 gallons, then came up with the overall malt bill, then went back and refined the individual recipes. the recipes shown below are my best attempt to show how to recreate the beers if not done together and have been adjusted slightly due to hitting higher efficiency than expected. The base malts used aren't traditional but I was making due with what I had including the last of my bags of Pilsner and 2-row and just enough Maris Otter to hit my required amounts.

Future Laws:
Belgian Golden Strong Ale
OG
1.083
FG
1.017
IBU
29
SRM
 3
ABV
9%

Fermentables
Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
4.0 lb
 2-Row (US)
Briess Mash 37 1 °L
2.0 lb
 Pilsner (DE)
Weyermann Mash 37 1 °L
1.5 lb
 Sucrose
N/A Boil 46 0 °L
0.67 lb
 Maris Otter Pale
Thomas Fawcett & Sons Mash 38 3 °L

Hops
Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.5 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 45 min Boil Pellet 2.80%
1.5 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 15 min Boil Pellet 2.80%

Yeast
Name Lab/Product Attenuation
Golden Pear Belgian Gigayeast 80.00%

Mash steps
Step Heat Source Target Temp Time
Saccharification Rest Infusion 146.0 °F 30 min
Saccharification Rest Infusion 154.0 °F 30 min

Of Greater Things:
Smoked Munich Helles
OG
1.054
FG
1.013
IBU
15
SRM
4
ABV
5.40%

Fermentables
Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
2.0 lb
 Maris Otter Pale (UK)
Thomas Fawcett & Sons Mash 38 3 °L
1.5 lb
 Pilsner (DE)
Weyermann Mash 37 1 °L
1.5 lb
 2-Row (US)
Briess Mash 37 1 °L
0.5 lb
 CaraHell (DE)
Weyermann Mash 34 11 °L
0.5 lb
 Smoked Malt (US)
Briess Mash 37 5 °L

Hops
Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
1.0 oz Strisselspalt (FR) 45 min Boil Pellet 2.80%

Yeast
Name Lab/Product Attenuation
German Lager Yeast White Labs WLP830 76.50%
German Lager Yeast White Labs WLP830 76.50%

Monday, April 18, 2016

Maisonette 5.0 Tasting and scores

My 4th version of Maisonette was easily one of, if not the, best beers I've ever brewed. Super fruity and flavorful but also delicate and refreshing, it encompassed everything I looked for in my grisette.  I enjoyed it so much that I intended to enter it in a few competitions. Unfortunately, I also enjoyed it so much that the keg kicked while I was bottling from it and I ended up not being able to send it in. Having already paid entry fees and with nothing else drinkable on hand, I decided to do a speed batch version, saison yeast blend after a few days (which included French saison yeast and Brettanomyces) that I knew would get it to finishing gravity quick.

The beer didn't excite me nearly the same as the previous batch, it was drier, less fruity, and overall fairly toned down. I added keg hops, mainly Azacca, which gave it some interesting character at first but even that faded after a couple days. With no time left and the entries already paid for I decided to bottle a few up and send into some competitions.

I received my National Homebrew Competition first round results today, where I entered the beer as both a clone of Oxbow Grizacca and as a table saison. I had previously received my results from the DC Homebrewers' Cherry Blossom Festival. Let me start by saying the scores are all over the place. In the Clone beer category in NHC the beer received a 40 and advanced to a mini-BOS round. On the other hand, in the Saison category the beer received a 22 with the judges notes including the words: stinky, sweaty, mustiness, autolysis, meaty, sour, oxidation! The scores from the Cherry Blossom festival (entered as a clone beer) were much closer to the clone beer scores from NHC than the saison scores with a 35 overall and mostly positive notes.

There's 3 ways to read this: 1) Beer (or at least this beer) is super subjective and the judges had very different tastes. 2) The beer had characters that judges were willing to forgive for a clone beer of a hoppy grisette but not in a strict saison category. 3) The one that ended up in the saison category was a bad bottle. In the end I think it was likely a combination of these factors with 3 being a definite possibility as this was my first time bottling off a keg for competition.

I decided to do a tasting and my own score sheet to see where I see this beer.

Aroma 8/12
Acid, fruity hops, spicy yeast phenols, some light pale malt, grass, a little barnyard, an occasional touch of solvent.

Appearance 2/3
Very pale straw, small white head fades quickly, lots of small bubbles throughout, very clear. Very nice looking beer.

Flavor 14/20
Less pronounced fruitiness than the nose, light pepper, no noticeable barnyard or solvent as the nose, light acidity, light bitterness in balance with the malt

Mouthfeel 3/5
Very dry and thin, even for the style, moderate carbonation is refreshing

Overall Impression 6/10
A refreshing light drinker but lacking in the hop and saison characteristics and with a little bit of funkiness that is out of place. Not a bad beer.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Brett IPA (Or how to dump a batch)

While I've made a number of moderately hoppy beers recently (including multiple takes on my Mosaic Grisette) I haven't had a true IPA on hand. Part of the reason is that I haven't had time to brew much and have devoted most of that to perfecting a few recipes. Part of it is just that I don't brew IPAs that often. And part of it is that I haven't been in love with IPAs recently.

While IPA has never been my favorite style I've gone through waves of hating them, loving them, and being fairly indifferent to them. Part of my issue recently is that I've found that the IPAs (and to a large extent pale ales) I've had recently tend to fall into 2 categories: overly dank and bitter or underwhelming all around.

StarTropics is a name I've used for several very distinct beers and I want to use the moniker once again because it has the 3 things I really want in this beer: super tropical-fruit aroma and taste from both hops and yeast, beautiful bright red color, and refreshing, not assaulting, bitterness.  Past attempts at this beer have missed the mark, with one being a Brett saison that became way too heavy on the Brett and the other being a "Brett" Trois based IPA that felt too malty and surprisingly tame in terms of fruit character. This time around I needed to do another radical overhaul.

I liked my previous 100% Brettanomyces beer, but I wasn't sure BKYeast's C2 strain was ideal for an IPA. Having read a lot of Bear-Flavored and Mad Fermentationist posts about Brett C for 100% beers I decided it had the descriptors I was looking for with fast fermentation and bright fruit characteristics.

In order to keep this beer from being as malty as the last version I decided to keep it focused on Pale Ale malt with just a touch of Golden Naked oats for a light sweet, nutty complexity. The color is coming almost entirely from 3 oz. of Carafa III, which I hope will be the right amount to provide a bright red look without too much roast character.

2/5/2016
Friday post-work brew day provided for some challenges. The cold weather made it take longer than usual to hit my strike temperature, and then my mash-in temperature was 4 degrees low. Added another couple gallons of hotter water to bring up to 151 after about 15 minutes. Had a smaller sparge due to the mash water correction and ended up getting my first stuck sparge. A number of things (stirring, adding more water, opening valve wider) didn't help but shoving the top of the dip tube to one side seemed to clear it and was able to run off enough to reach 6 gallons of reddish brown wort. Added the hopshot and bittering additions were added as First Wort with no other additions added until post boil, with the first addition added at flame-out and another added less than 10 minutes later once the wort had cooled to 160. After a 20 minute hop stand at 160 the wort was cooled down the rest of the way to 75.

2/6/2016
Unfortunately a two day starter didn't seem to be enough to get the yeast to the levels required and after 24 hours I pitched a slurry of Brett L + C2.

3/5/2016
I didn't want to admit it for a lot of reasons but...this one is my first full batch dumper. The Brett ended up creating a LOT of plastic flavor that outshines the otherwise pleasant hop characteristics. I am assuming that this is likely due to not having enough yeast at initial pitch and the long lag time experienced by the Brett C. I feel like this is a recipe that had some promise if done correctly but I failed to deliver and need to start over. Once again this recipe teaches me a lesson but fails to produce adequate beer.

4/2/2016
Gave this one a month to cleanup, but I needed the carboy so it got fed to the compost. Disappointing but at least I got the impression that this hop bill worked.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Maisonette v4.0

Between Two Succulents without Zach Galifianakas
Here once again is the latest take on my little house beer. Maisonette is a beer I first brewed in March 2015, which means that in less than a year it has gone from an extract batch brewed on a whim to by far my most rebrewed recipe. Part of what keeps me brewing this beer is that it consistently comes out enjoyable regardless of the variations applied. Maybe even a larger part is just how terrific my very first mini batch of it was and how difficult it has been to emulate. With that in mind I set out to once again split this batch 2 ways but with yeasts that should be closer to the yeast blend I initially used.

Brew notes: Pulled 8.75 gallons straight from the sink. Added 1/2 of a campden tablet, then 1 g Gypsum and 2 g CaCl. Missed my mash-in temp hitting just 144° before raising to 149° after 10 minutes. 50 minutes later I ran off, batch sparged with 170° water (to bring to 165° let sit for 15 minutes then ran off slowly over the course of half an hour before moving the wort to the burner.

Added .35 oz. hops and 6 oz turbinado at boil, 60 minutes later I cut the heat and added 1 oz. for 10 minutes before applying cooling. Applied cooling to 145° then added additional 2.65. Applied additional cooling after 20 minutes only to have the wort chiller begin leaking. A small amount of the chilling water made its way into the beer, and I had a hard time deciding whether to reboil or just move ahead but was on a time constraint so I tightened the loose connection after about 15 minutes of cussing and yelling at it and continued the chill. Reached 80° degrees after about 15 more minutes.

Split evenly between two 3 gallon carboys and pitched yeast. One full packet of Danstar Belle Saison and a quarter cup of BKYeast C2 Brett slurry in one half with a pack of Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison in the other.

8 hours after pitching both carboys had fallen to near room temperature at 65° with the Belle/C2 version showing vigorous fermentation and the Belgian Saison just starting to bubble. 8 hours later both versions are actively chugging along nicely. Moved the carboys next to each other and wrapped in a blanket to allow them to maintain some heat.

12/20/2015
Belle/C2 version down to 1.004 gravity, while Belgian Saison version is still slowly bubbling away and only down to 1.029. Belle/C2 version kegged with 2 oz. bagged Mosaic hops.

1/17/2016
Belle/C2 version still on tap, pretty good, super fruity gooseberry/kiwi character from the hops, but not much else. Belgian Saison version down to 1.003 but still showing weak signs of fermentation (krausen and occasional off gassing). Tasting pretty great! I'm super excited to keg this one soon.

1/18/2016
Tasting:
Appearance- very pale in color, moderately hazy, with just enough clarity to make out some shapes behind it. Small but fairly stable and sticky white head. 

Smell- big sweet fruity hop aroma giving lots of gooseberry and a touch of mango and spice.

Taste- the hops are more subdued than in the nose with grainy, lightly sweet malt leading and the hops just giving a faint fruit salad character over top. Bitterness is cleansing but slightly spicy/astringent and stronger than I would like.

Mouthfeel- moderately thin mouthfeel, fairly low carbonation after a couple days in the growler.

Overall- a drinkable, likable, super fruity beer that isn't exactly what I'm going for. This beer seems to be heading more in the direction of an IPA without the bitterness than the juicy grisette I'm after. A fine beer, but off target. The Belgian Saison seems like the much more exciting option than this fairly clean/lightly spicy Belle Saison.

1/31/2016
Kegged the Belgian Saison version with the Belle/C2 version kicking.

2/6/2016
Brought a growler of the Belgian Saison version of this beer to the annual JamBEERee homebrew meeting between several DC/Northern Virginia area clubs (BURP, Grist, WortHogs, and DC Homebrewers). Received a lot of positive feedback mixed with a lot of confusion on what a Grisette is. I'm pretty pleased with how this batch turned out and plan planned to submit it to a few competitions.

2/19/2016
Tasting of the Belgian Saison version:

Appearance: Surprisingly clear pale golden yellow. A few weeks in the keg have done wonders for this beer. High carbonation (nearly 15 PSI) gives it a large head, that recedes to a small film after a few minutes.

Next to a Fern without Zach Galifianakis
Smell: The wonderful, almost artificial (makes me think of juicy fruit gum) fruitiness that I want in this beer leads the way. There is also some lemon, pine, coriander, banana taffy, and cranberry. The hops and yeast seem to work harmoniously to produce the big bouquet.

Taste: Light grainy sweetness fills the first sip with a myriad of tropical fruit and citrus flavors coming in later. A moderate bitterness lingers on the back of the tongue with a touch of pepper.

Mouthfeel: Super dry and crisp. After a few weeks in the keg this beer seems to have become even drier, bringing it closer in line with a traditional saison.

Overall: I am very happy with the way this one turned out. While it isn't quite as fruity and delicious as the first couple days on tap it seems to have developed into something more akin to what someone would expect from a saison. This beer is impeccably light and drinkable, enjoyable enough in a small taster or pint after pint. This is a good beer.