Saturday, March 28, 2015

Old Horse and Jockey Version 2

Less than 2 weeks ago my beloved grandmother passed away. A brave world traveler who lived through wartime bombings, moved half way across the globe as a young woman, and managed to visit all 50 states and all 7 continents, she helped inspire my desire for travel and my general curiosity about the world around me. The name Old Horse and Jockey comes from the, now long defunct, pub managed by my grandmother's grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) and for one year after his death her grandmother (my great-great-grandmother) in Bristol, England from 1921-1945. My grandmother spent much of her youth in and around this pub and always spoke of it with such fond memories and the Old Horse and Jockey Porter is brewed in loving memory of her, her hometown of Bristol, and the pub she called home.

From what I can tell the pub was owned, and would have served beer brewed by, The Bristol Brewery Georges & Co. Ltd. brewery. While the brewery had begun as a solely porter producing operation, by the 1920's the porter style had all but faded from existence in England and I can't tell whether the brewery (or one of their many acquisitions) made the style during this period. Nevertheless I decided to brew a somewhat classic porter recipe that includes brown malt and no black patent.

Sentimental stuff out of the way, this porter also means a lot to me as a brewer. I want to renew my passion for brewing and really evaluate my processes, ingredients, equipment, and techniques in a new light. This is the second version of the Old Horse and Jockey, and while the first (an extract brew) came out well, I'm hoping to really start to hone this recipe in.  The first step is taking more notes and more accurate notes, the second is putting more time and focus into the little details.  Instead of knowing that what I'm making will be beer, I want to know that what I'm making will be Good Beer. At a minimum if what I create isn't great then at least I will have solid explanations for why and can be sure that I continue to progress as a brewer.

For this batch I used 5 malts, all from either Crisp Malting or Bairds Malt, bought online, milled, from Morebeer. Below is a breakdown of the smell and flavor of each prior to being added to the mash:
  • 10 lbs Floor-Malted Maris Otter (Crisp): Smell: toast, grassy, hay-like. Taste: lightly toasty, grainy, grassy.
  • 1 lb. Carastan (Bairds): Smell: toffee, fresh baked bread, pastry dough. Taste: sweet, doughy
  • 1 lb. Brown (Crisp): Smell: pizza crust, just burnt toast.  Taste: fire cooked pizza crust
  • 1/2 lb. Chocolate (Bairds): Smell: herbal, woody, pinecone. Taste: burnt marshmallow, heavily burnt toast.
  • 1/2 lb. Crystal Malt 135/165 (Bairds): Smell: Plum, fresh fields (soil and floral elements), light toast, freshly baked dark bread. Taste: Slightly burnt caramel, cherry, bread crust, black tea.

I measured my water additions by weight adding 6g of chalk and 2 grams of gypsum to the mash water.  I hit my numbers pretty well mashing in with 4 gallons of 162 (Fahrenheit) strike water for an initial mash temp of 156 (target of 155). After a 1 hour mash rest I added ~1.5 gallons boiling water to raise to a mashout temp of 170. After the 15 minute mashout I ran off all the mash water and added the final 2 gallons of water (at 105 F) which was held for another 10 minutes prior to runoff.

For hops I used .75 oz of Target (8.9% AA) for 60 minutes, with WGV (5.3% AA) at 15 minutes and flame-out. The target has a earth, pine, grass, herbal, mint smell with the WGV having some similarities but also having a big juicy fruit character blending with the dank and earthy characters.                                                       

The finished wort appears to have a nice deep brown color. Cooled to 72 (about room temp) after 1.5 hours. The ice bath water was still cold but this method is just super ineffective and I need to find a better way. Added the 11g packet of yeast then moved the bucket to the keezer set at 60F (fortunately there was some empty space due to a number of kegs kicking recently and the only beer on tap is a bitter that can handle being served this warm). I should have waited to pitch the yeast until it had cooled a little further but on the positive side the yeast immediately took off puffing up with foam and throwing off yeasty smells, I hadn't brewed with dry yeast in a while and don't remember them taking off so quickly.  OG was 1.062, slightly beating my (low) efficiency expectations.

Not too surprisingly this beer came out sweeter and less roasty than I would have liked.  A pound of brown malt just doesn't go very far, and the half pound of chocolate wasn't enough, while the 1.5 pounds of crystal malts was too much for an already moderately attenuative beer.  I decided to add half an ounce of bourbon soaked oak chips.  Next time I brew this recipe I plan to knock down the crystal malts by at least a quarter pound and increase the roast malts by at least half a pound.

Monday, March 23, 2015

5 Way Berliner (and My First Competition Ribbon)

Not strictly a "split batch" or formal experiment (or should I say ExBEERiment) I nonetheless wanted to taste test 5 variations on sour wheat beers side by side to see which method I liked the most.  While 3 of the beers were started at the same time and used identical worts, the other two were made earlier and one used a very different wort (the extra runnings from my Hefeweizen).  The breakdown of each beer is listed below.  Each batch was a little less than 1 gallon.
  1. "B" Hefeweizen 2nd Runnings w/ Lactobacillus Delbrueckii followed by British ale yeast
    • The 1st version was fermented on the Lacto Del for 3 days before being moved to secondary with the British ale yeast.
    • OG ~1.040, FG 1.003
  2. "C" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii only
    • Pitched on the lacto cake from version 1.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.002
  3. "X" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, British ale yeast, and Brettanomyces (BKYeast C2)
    • Pitched with the final slurry from Version 1 with Brett added 5 days later.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.002
  4. "Y" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and wild microbes (my Sunroom blend)
    • 1 pint pitched with my Sunroom blend (of wild microbes harvested from my Sunroom) before receiving a small amount of the Lacto slurry while being stepped up from an to 1 gallon.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.003
  5. "Z" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and Brettanomyces (BKYeast C2)
    • Given a pitch from the Lacto slurry before being given Brett 5 days later
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.005

B- cloudiest, light pale color, short lived white head
C- darkest by far, longest lasting head, most carbonated, fairly clear
X- 2nd cloudiest, almost no head
Y- 3rd cloudiest, 2nd biggest head
Z- clearest, smallest head

B- fruity, light citrus,
C- medicinal off smelling, especially as it warms
X- lots of Brett funk, fruity citrus
Y- lightly fruity, vanilla, maybe a touch of butter, very interesting
Z- light fruit, berries, light Brett

B- fruity and tart, sourness is moderately high
C- lightly medicinal, just lightly tart
X- funky, light to moderate sourness
Y- moderately sour, some definite diacetyl butteriness, a little fruit
Z- light grain, lightly tart, fairly restrained

B-Super dry, lightly carbonated
C- medium body with medium carbonation
X- dry with low to medium carbonation
Y- a slightly slicker mouthfeel (diacetyl?) medium low carbonation
Z- medium low in body (the Brett and lacto don't seem to have attenuated as well as the lacto and yeast combos) medium carbonation

B- my favorite of the bunch, moderately sour but with some nice banana, lemon, and wheat in the mix
C- my least favorite by far, just using the lactobacillus is clearly not an advisable option as it surprisingly is under sour and very medicinal
X- my second favorite, and the second most sour. Brett character is a little too high and sourness a little too low
Y- while it was cold this one was really interesting and enjoyable, as it warmed it seems that diacetyl is the most dominant character and the sourness isn't quite high enough
Z- an alright beer, this sort of feels like a bland saison with a light Brett touch. The sourness of the lactobacillus and Brett alone isn't high enough.

This small test has made me think that lactobacillus followed by saccharomyces is the best option for quickly fermented sour beers. I'm a little disappointed in how buttery the wild fermented beer came out and learned to never do lacto only beers, but otherwise the results weren't overly surprising.

Spoke to a brewer at Tired Hands in Ardmore Pennsylvania and was told that they use a very similar process as version "B" for their sours: lacto for 3 days followed by British ale yeast.

Happy to say version "B" received a score of 35 and third place in the Sour Ales category at the DC Homebrewer's Club Cherry Blossom Competition.  Sure, it was only out of 6 beers in the category but for a beer not brewed to style and with no expectations it still did well enough to receive a ribbon.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Better Bitter

When I made my first Special/Best/Premium Bitter recipe I wanted something extremely classic: British Pale Ale malt, crystal malt, and a little bit of a roasted (in that case Victory) malt.  For the second iteration of this beer I decided to go in a pretty different and original direction.

While the base malt is still Maris Otter Pale ale malt and the hops are still primarily EKG's, I used an unconventional ingredient that I really like in Golden Naked Oats and an unconventional ingredient that I've really wanted to try in Crystal Rye.  The end beer I'm going for should have a smaller toffee/caramel character than a classic bitter but with a bit more of a dry/licorice character from the Crystal Rye and some creamy, subtle sweetness from the Naked Oats.

I thought about oaking a small part of this batch to make something completely original, until I discovered this recipe and was reminded that there's nothing new under the sun.
Surrounded by guitar pedal remnants on the Sunroom table.

Tasting notes:
Appearance- pours a pretty looking burnt orange color with substantial haziness. One inch bright white head fades quickly to a thin sticky layer.

Smell- peach, citrus, interesting grain character: lightly sharp, grainy, crusty. I start to pick up more rye/oat/pretzel(?) character over time and as I drink it.

Taste- like the nose the initial impression is fruit: mild stone fruit and some lightly citrusy notes. The grain and bitterness build after the swallow and with subsequent sips. Middle and finish is almost pretzel like, crusty, lightly toasty and sharp with the moderate bitterness.

Mouthfeel- medium bodied and medium to light carbonation, pretty good for the style and for this beer.

Overall- well, I was certainly trying for something different here with using the caramel rye and a lot of Golden Naked Oats but I didn't get what I was expecting. This beer somehow comes off as salty and sharply grainy. While it doesn't taste just like a pretzel, there is a distinct similarity in the flavors that is hard to account for though I assume the combination of caramel rye, golden naked oats, and the water chemicals added to the mash (1 g CaCl 3 g gypsum) all contributed. Not a terrible beer, nor a very good one, just something pretty different but drinkable enough.