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.

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.

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.

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.

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.