Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lambic #2

As my first lambic approaches the one year mark, and with a plethora of recently brewed and bottled beers on hand, it seems like a good time to brew another sour beer that I can stash away for a while.  While I bottled half of the first lambic months ago, and it's tasting quite good, the other half is still churning along on some oak cubes and will likely be nice to blend with this Lambic #2 a year or two from now to make my first geuze.
Unlike the first lambic which used primarily malt extract and just a small amount of fresh, low alpha hops, this version is a bit more complex using 2-row, flaked wheat and a touch of oats and light crystal malt. While I am not going so far as to perform a turbid mash, the use of actual grains and aged hops should put this one closer to the traditional style.

Rather than use my Sour Blend #1, which was based off of the Roselare blend with dregs from Drie Fonteinen and Lindemans, I decided to start a new bug blend with Wyeast Pediococcus, American Ale II, and BKYeast C2 at initial pitch with the Wyeast Lambic Blend and bottle dregs planned to be added later.

Brewday notes:
Hops: the lambic blend hops are very interesting. Intensely dark in color with aromas of musk, herbs, light pine, decaying wood and some fruity sweet plum character. Somewhat similar to Styrian Goldings in smell they're like a grandmother's basement: perfume, plum and lots of must.

Oak: I boiled 1 oz of Hungarian medium toast oak. I believe this oak has been used at least once before but it was in an unmarked bag. Almost no oak aroma came off it before boiling so it might have lost almost all of its character in its previous uses. I can always add more later if I'm not getting enough flavor from this addition.

Fermentation still appears active though slowed from a week ago. This one has been putting out some vomit and sulfur smells. Took a tiny sample, smelled of lemon and grainy wheat. Taste was surprisingly bitter and lightly lemony. The bitterness should fade in time and there doesn't seem to be any detrimental off flavors. This beer is far from being complete but I have high hopes so far.

Gravity down to 1.003. Taste is lightly tart, lightly bitter and not very interesting otherwise. Still a long way to go.

I decided to add my spontaneous starter to give this some more complexity and sugars to work with.  Prior to pitching the starter gravity was down to 1.002.  Taste is dry, lightly bitter, and fairly fruity. The warm temperatures seem to have caused some ester formation, though the spontaneous starter was much fruitier.

Added Petrus Aged Ale dregs.

Coming up on a year and this beer is simply just slightly tart and fairly funky with a touch of butter.  I added .5 oz Lactic acid, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and .25 tsp acid blend hoping that some increased acidity will help the flavors.

This beer had been tasting very nice, fairly acidic but with a fruity apricot character. Unfortunately it seems to have gotten a little too much oxygen exposure recently and is now quite sour. I decided to hope for the best and added the 3 lbs each of apricot and peach Vintner's Harvest purees I had purchased for the beer to about 4 gallons of remaining beer.

After about a month on the apricot and peach purées the beer is a touch too sour and has developed a serious pellicle. At this point I've decided to blend it out with my less sour and fairly boring Lambic #3. While this will unfortunately reduce the fruit character, the sourness is simply too high as is.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

#34 Tripel - Tasting

I decided to do a side by side comparison of my tripel and the stronger (Golden Strong-ish) version which has added honey and a sage tincture. This side by side really demonstrates the similarities and differences between the two that may be harder to discern if working only off memory or even notes.  For this tasting I will focus on the "Tripel", with notes on differences from the "Golden Strong" which I already recorded a tasting for.

Not a great picture. The Golden Strong version is on the right and a shade darker and cloudier.

A- slightly lighter than the Golden Strong, more of a medium gold where the other is a light copper. Both pour with a small and quickly fading white head with no lacing.

S- whereas the Golden Strong version largely demonstrates herbal, floral and honey notes, the predominate aromas on the Tripel are grainy pilsner, fruity apples and banana from the yeast, with some light spice from the hops and yeast.

T- up front this is dominated by a sweet, honey flavor with alcohol becoming noticeable in the middle.  Medium esters and light phenolic spice mingle with a moderately low bitterness leaving a clean but warm alcohol tinged finish. The alcohol is noticeably less strong than the Golden Strong despite only about a 1% difference difference in total ABV.

M- fairly noticeable pop on opening but light carbonation by the time I finished the 12 ounces. Fairly well attenuated but still doesn't finish dry, with the sweetness disappearing in the finish more due to the alcohol presence than a crisp ending.

O- a decent beer all around, no flaws and a good balance of the hops, yeast, grain and sugars. If I could change anything about this brew it would be to remove the honey to allow the yeast and grain to fully shine through.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#36 - 10° Quad Recipe and Tasting

The 10° Quad is the 3rd and final in my Belgian Trappist series that began with brewing the 6° Dubbel, followed by the 8° Tripel.  In addition to these 3 beers, two side projects, a Golden Strong with Sage and Christmas Cookie spiced Quad/Dubbel blend, also came out of this excursion to the Trappist monastery styles of brewing.  The Quad is intended to be the king of the 3, the most malt, the most sugar additions, the most time to ferment; harder, better, faster, stronger.  This is far from my first attempt at a quad with the first two being interesting but off the mark.  The hope for this beer is that the use of commercial candi syrup, rather than homemade, and tighter control on yeast levels and fermentation temperatures, will bring this to where I want.

Still have not bottled this beer and unfortunately it seems to have oxidized.  Taste has some nice rum/molasses character of the candi syrup and a bit of fruitiness but these are muted by the flat, oxidized flavor.  I had planned to bottle long before now but a number of issues have made me reschedule and this one now seems doomed.  Perhaps this will go down as a lesson that the high number of beers I brewed in the early months of this year were beyond my capacity to manage and I need to stick to one or two beers over a similar time span, not 4 brew days with multiple variations leading to 7 beers.

Bottled with 2 oz table sugar. Still seems a bit oxidized and less strong than expected but has some nice dark fruit flavors as well.

Appearance- very deep, opaque brown, just a shade above black. Huge, fluffy, light tan head that's well supported by a huge carbonation rising thought the beer.

Smell- dark malt, caramel, toffee and dark pit fruit aromas are somewhat muted by a stale character I take to be oxidation. Some definite alcohol in the mix as it warms.

Taste- dark fruit, molasses, rum, raisin, clove and warming, slightly hot, alcohol.  As it warms there is a bit of that sherry-like oxidized note but the stale, cardboard flavor doesn't dominate as strongly as I have noticed in the past. There is some moderate bitterness in the finish that knocks away the sweetness and leaves a lingering alcohol and fruit sensation.

Mouthfeel- hugely carbonated but moderately light in body, this is pretty spot on for a belgian style giving a creamy, smooth drinking, effect.

Overall- this feels like a beer that could have been very good, lots of fruity, spicy, sugary flavors from malt and yeast and a great body and carbonation level. Unfortunately the early oxidation of this beer keeps it from being a terrific example. Yet another data point in my quest for a great homebrewed Belgian Quad, but maybe the most informative data point thus far.

Update: hugely carbonated was right, opened the laundry room to find shards of glass and dark sticky beer everywhere. At least two (edit, it was 6!) of these have exploded so far. The culprit is likely adding too much sugar as they don't give an off smell (they actually smell great) and were certainly given plenty of time to finish initial fermentation.  Still I only used 2 oz in nearly 4 gallons of beer, which should have given a volume well under 2.5, which the bottles should be able to hold. Time to figure out how to trash the rest; not worth having a bad and dangerous beer sitting around.

Friday, May 2, 2014

#38 - American Rye

With the warm weather finally setting in here in the Mid-Atlantic I've turned my mind towards warm weather, quaffable beers and this low alcohol, hoppy, American style beer using both wheat and rye seems as summery as I'm going to get.  The goal here is to have a highly hop flavored, but only lightly bitter, light beer that can quench my thirst through the next few months as the area turns from a beautiful, cherry blossom filled oasis to an unbearably hot and humid swamp.

While the recipe has been changed a number of times some of the main ideas were to use wheat and rye and to retry Citra after less than stellar results a few years back.  The final iteration also uses the experimental HBC342 hop varietal and a little Palisade. Rubbing and smelling each hop separately is an eye opening experience, especially considering their somewhat similar descriptors.  HBC342 has a strong damp, decaying leaves, earthy, woody, canteloupe, black pepper and black currant smell that reminds me of Styrian Goldings more than any American hops.  Citra has a strong fruit salad smell with mango being the most obvious component with pineapple, guava, papaya, grapefruit and aggressive, bitter citrus peel all in the mix as well.  Palisade, as displayed in my Belgian American Pale Ale, is floral and perfumey with light apple, pear and cedar notes in the rubbed smell.  Some of the reports I have read of HBC342 have stated that the aroma doesn't come through very strongly, also a common complaint with Palisade, which might make them more backing parts to the Citra.

The brewday went long due to having to run errands in the middle, single infusion mash began at 150 and lasted nearly 2 hours falling to 144 before mashing out at 168 and batch sparging at 175.  Hour long boil was mostly quiet since I only added all the hops at the same time that I cut the temperature.  With this many hops and the amount of alpha acids pulled during the post boil not super accurate it should be interesting to see just how bitter (or not) this one turns out.  OG is just 1.040...once again well below my already low projections.  (Note: reviewing the recipe again I see this isn't as far below as I had originally thought but is still only about 60%).  In this case I'm almost certain it is due to the milling since all the grains, and the rye and malted wheat especially, seemed to have a large number of unthreshed pieces.  This might be the batch that finally prompts me to buy a mill.

Popped one open to test. Very flat and cloudy with a heavy citrus and moderate bitterness but not a lot of hop flavor on the tongue. Hopefully the carbonation kicks in and brings this beer more together.  As it currently stands, it looks and tastes quite a bit like grapefruit juice.

Tasting notes.  Still very cloudy with high drinkability but nothing too exciting in the flavor and something seems a touch off other than just the appearance.