Friday, February 16, 2018

Kveik Blonde Ales

In November I received a package from DeWayne Schaaf of the Kveik World Order Facebook page and blog. It turns out I was one of the lucky winners of the lottery for kveik's he was sending out which were at the time not commercially available. Kveik is a word used for yeast/yeast blends from certain regions of Norway as documented by Lars Marius Garshol on his Larsblog. I tried reaching out to DeWayne for any other information he could give on the yeasts (attenuation, recipe ideas, etc.) but never got a response so I decided to design a recipe that was versatile enough to handle a wide range of possible yeast interactions.

I used a strain from one kveik blend before when I put the Sigmund's Voss Kveik in a Norwegian influenced version of my Maisonette grisette. That particular beer turned out very interesting, more earthy and subtle than typical for the beer and with a nice orange peel character. The three strains/blends I received are completely different from that batch but I decided to do a somewhat similar beer with moderate gravity and moderate bitterness, but a decent amount of whirlpool hops to keep it interesting while also letting the yeast show through.

After reading some comments about the Ebbegarden potentially having negative interactions with hops/bitterness I decided to use the two other strains for this batch. Terje Raftevold's Hornindal Kveik is said to contain non-souring bacteria and a large number of yeast strains and a blend of some of these strains is available (at least in some capacity in Canada) from Escarpment Labs. The Midbust blend comes from Odd H Midtbust in Stordal and is available (possibly?) from Mainiacal Yeast who describe it as having "stone and tropical fruit notes as well as a light smokiness and acidity".

I chose the Pekko hops for this batch due to having some on hand and seeing them used in a few Saison/farmhouse style recipes and otherwise designed the beer to fall in the American Blonde Ale range.

Brew Day: Heated 7.75 gallons untreated water and mashed in at 156F. Added 2 tsp 10% phosphoric acid. Performed a hybrid sparge to collect 6.75 gallons water at 1.038. Added .6 oz Aramis hops after 30 minutes, then boiled another 30 minutes before adding 2 oz. Pekko and whirlpooling down to 100F. Split the batch between two 3 gallon better bottles and pitched the small tube of each yeast. Underpitching is said to be an important aspect of Norwegian brewing and helps the kveik produce esters during fermentation.

12 hours later Terje half showing signs of fermentation, Midtbust half not so much. After 24 hours Terje is reaching high krausen, still no real life from Midtbust.

Midtbust half showing some krausen, Terje still fermenting heavily.

Both beers look about done fermenting after only about 72 hours since pitching.

Midtbust - Gravity down to 1.010. Taste is bright, citrusy, fruity and with just a mild herbal character and a small amount of bitterness that builds after the finish.
Terje - Down to 1.011, very similar to Midtbust but with maybe a touch more herbal/hoppy flavor.
Both beers taste good but I may have overwhelmed the yeast character with the hops.

Kegged both beers and set to 15 PSI at 48F. Both smell very good, still bright and citrusy. The densest/most stable yeast cakes I've ever seen, to the point that it was hard to transfer the yeast to containers for storage. I can see how this would dry well.

Side by side tasting.

Appearance: Cloudy blonde body, looks like a NEIPA. Moderate white head fades fairly quickly but has maybe a touch more head retention than the Terje version.

Smell: Moderate orange peel and pineapple and sweet grainy malt. Some subtle pine, lemon, herbs, and hay.

Taste: Orange peel and pineapple again lead with some cherry and light grainy malt sweetness. The finish is a low but refreshing hoppy bitterness with a lingering herbal character.

Mouthfeel: Low to medium body with low carbonation. After nearly a week on tap I expected more pop but with the low gravity this works alright.

Overall: A fairly restrained but enjoyable beer. It goes down easy with enough citrus and hop character to be refreshing and keep me coming back for more. Higher fermentation temperatures and more hops might make for a more interesting beer but enjoyable as is. I don't get any of the acidity or smokiness noted by Mainiacal.

Appearance: Nearly identical to the Midtbust version, with a head that's a touch smaller and fades faster but that could be the glass or pour as much as anything else.

Smell: Again, orange peel is apparent but there is a also a light earthy/funk quality just barely in the mix. Over time I pick up more and more of a processed fruit (fruit snacks/fruit leather) aroma that I've never experienced in a beer. There's a hint of honeysuckle but otherwise no real herbal/hoppy characteristics.

Taste: Rounder and more fruit forward than the Midt version. Again, there's citrus peel but the processed fruit character is somewhat pronounced and fills in the rest of the palate. Less apparent malt graininess and sweetness and less apparent bitterness though it still finishes refreshing with a light lingering herbal character.

Mouthfeel: Feels a touch thicker than the Midtbuster but with similarly low carbonation. This version could definitely use a little more CO2.

Overall: Again a somewhat subdued beer but what's here is good. The 'fruit snack' like character is different from what I've experienced in most beers but might be a bit too strong compared to the other flavors. Overall, a decent and enjoyable but not exceptional blonde-ish ale.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wheat Beer Split Batch Tastings

I had originally planned to do separate tastings of the two beers that came out of my wheat beer split batch but life has gotten in the way recently and after a few attempts to write about each in half asleep states that ended with half legible notes I decided to use a day off to taste each and get a full description down.

Pink Dream Hibiscus Wit:
Appearance - Medium red in color with great clarity, probably the best I've had in a beer without finings. The head is the palest shade of pink, just off white, and has decent retention for a sour but fades to a small ring after a few minutes. More red than the pink I was aiming for but part of that is the base beers darkness and it's still a really pretty beer. Redder and clearer than the picture above would indicate.

Smell - Fruit (cherry, lychee, mixed berries) with some lower floral character. Light toasty and caramel malt in the presence.

Taste - Moderate tartness washes into sweet raspberry and passionfruit juice character that finishes with just enough sourness to balance the sweetness. Not noticeably salty but with a slight lingering note that might be the sodium.

Mouthfeel - Low to moderate body and carbonation, not as carbonated as I would like. The sweetness could probably be cut by more carbonation but it's not offensive.

Overall - A refreshing beer with no off flavors and plenty of fruitiness but not quite as sour or salty as I would like from a gose. The Lychee and Passionfruit extracts came across extremely strong and artificial in the first few pours but haven't been noticeable in the mix since. Were I to label the beer as having those elements I would need to use more, but with the hibiscus as the focus the subtle fruit approach worked. If I were to brew this again I would probably up the salt by 50-100% and give the lacto another day. I would also like to use a more subtle base (no caravienne) to cut some of the sweetness.

Green Spree Hoppy American Wheat:
Appearance - Deep coppery gold. Moderately cloudy, though some pours are fairly clear. Changing CO2 tanks and re-carbonating seems to have shaken up some hops. White head is small but steady with lots of lacing and small bubbles.

Smell - Green apple, pine, and lime lead the aroma with caramel and toasted malt.

Taste - Leads with citrus and apple that lead to a pine needle, citrus peel, and sweet caramel sugary middle before finishing with peach, pine, and a strange mix of lingering bitterness and sweetness.

Mouthfeel - Medium heavy in body and medium low in carbonation. Could use more carbonation and a lighter body but works okay as is.

Overall - This one doesn't quite work. While each of the elements seem to have given what I had looked for the blend just doesn't come together as well as I anticipated, with the sweetness of the malt and the strong apple and pine characters seeming to drown out the other elements. I can see why this base would work better with more citrus and tropical character of Fortunate Islands. With some time the hop flavors have harmonized some with the citrus coming more into focus but the sweetness of the malt and orchard fruit of the yeast still leave it a little candy like and strange. Not a bad beer but one that I won't brew again without significant adjustments.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Wheat Beer Split Batch (Green Spree Hoppy Wheat and Pink Dream Fruited Gose)

I love doing split batches when I homebrew. It allows me to double (or more than double) the number of beers I'm able to create with almost no increase in effort or time. Another proponent of splitting batches is Michael Tonsmeire who spoke about this very topic on the Experimental Brew's Brew Files podcast. This was perfect timing given that I was making a similar split batch (1/2 hoppy, 1/2 sour) and using the grain bill from one of Mike's recipes (Fortunate Islands) to do it.

Green Spree is inspired by both Mike/Modern Time's Fortunate Islands recipe and Mike's business partner Scott Janish's flavor descriptors for El Dorado hops as tasting like "Green Spree" candy. To up the green (in my mind this means sour apple but also lime, grass, and pine) character I added Warrior (which I found to have pine, grass and lime) and Centennial (resinous and citrusy) hops to the bill. The goal for this recipe is to sit somewhere between the light-to-moderate bitterness and hop character of my Pilsner and the heavily hopped West Coast NEIPA I have on tap, while still giving a chance to explore some new hops that I've been holding onto for a long time.

Pink Dream is a take on the classic Leipziger style featuring salt and a lactobacillus driven sourness but with the twist of orange peel instead of coriander plus an increased sweetness and darker color from the Caravienne malt. I also plan to add a hibiscus tea and possibly lychee or passionfruit to the beer to up the fruitiness and quenchability. The gose formulation (especially in terms of salt levels) and hibiscus addition (in terms of dosing and method) were inspired by Mike's Gose and Hibiscus Wit.

Not surprisingly the two beers appeared very different in the fermenters with the Green Spree half being hazier and having a more vigorous krausen while the Pink Dream half had little foaming even during the peak of fermentation and was much clearer and looked darker due to this.

Green Spree (Hoppy Half):
12/14/17 Brew Day
Expected OG: 1.045
Actual OG: 1.053
Expected Efficiency: 75%
Actual Efficientcy: 85%
Expected FG: 1.012
Actual FG: 1.015

Added dry hops to Green Spree. Gravity down to 1.015 (7.5 Plato refractometer reading). Tastes fairly sweet but also moderately hoppy and tasty.

Transferred to 3 gallon keg. Tasting hoppy but a bit grassier and harsher than expected.

Pink Dream (Gose Half):
12/14/17 Brew Day
Expected OG: 1.045
Actual OG: 1.042
Expected Efficiency: 75%
Actual Efficientcy: 70%
Expected FG: 1.013
Actual FG: 1.010

I pulled off 3 gallons for this half just after the combined wort hit a boil. This was then cooled to 100F and Lactobacillus Delbrueckii was added. Prior to pitching the Lacto I pre-acidified the wort with 3 tablespoons of 10% phosphoric acid in hopes to minimize the protein denaturing. After 12 hours I pitched a GoodBelly Straightshot due to concerns with the Lacto Del's souring capacity. 24 hours later I pitched a pack of S-04. I left my pH meter in Maryland so I had to just use taste of the sour wort and other people's experience to determine timing.

Pink Dream half down to 1.010 (5 Plato refractometer reading). Moderately sour with a noticeable but not overwhelming saltiness and some sweetness.

Added hibiscus by adding 1.5 cups of nearly boiling water to 1 oz. hibiscus poured into carboy. 1/2 oz each Amoretti Lychee Compound and Passionfruit Swirl added to keg with the beer then racked on top. Has good color, strong fruitiness, but it comes off slightly artificial. Hopefully the first pour just had more of the extracts than the rest of the batch and with some time the flavor will meld more.

Brought a swing top bottle of this to a San Francisco Homebrewers Guild meeting. Mostly positive response with several noting low salt levels (intended but below style requirements) and a mixed response to the hibiscus levels (some saying too high, others thinking it was a subtle enough touch to not overpower the beer).

Friday, January 5, 2018

Westward On (West Coast NEIPA)

NEIPA has taken the brewing world by storm. It's all at once loved, reviled, overrated, misunderstood, poorly made, perfected, singular, and widely varying. The main rules for making an NEIPA are: it has to be hazy and it has to be hoppy. There are some secondary characteristics including fruity hops, thick mouthfeel, and sweetness/less IBUs than a traditional IPA that are generally, but not always, desired. There are also a wide range of approaches to all of these characteristics

After moving to the West Coast I was strongly considering brewing a classic West Coast style IPA: bitter, dry, aggressive, piney, dank, citrusy. As I started making the grain and hop bill for this recipe I realized I could have a lot of those things but still take the best of NEIPA (less bitterness, less caramel malt, more body) and make a beer that I would truly want to drink.

Another part of my direction in brewing this IPA (and a few other hoppy beers I have planned) is the abundance of hops I have accumulated that made it to San Francisco with me. Over the years I have bought pounds of hops at various times and rarely finished a full bag. For this beer I decided to use the last 1/2 oz of an old bag of Amarillo, and decent amounts of Citra and Nugget that I had bought full pounds of in the past couple years.

A large portion of my hop collection also came from a mix of 2 oz 2015 hop packs from Yakima Valley Hops as a prize for my win in the DC Homebrewers BBQ competition (maybe not surprisingly with an NEIPA). Since then I have only brewed a small handful of hoppy beers, and have not ventured into the world of many of these hops, so I decided to include Comet in this recipe.

With these things in mind I created and brewed my first West Coast IPA (West Coast in brewing location if not style) and I'm really excited about it. Based on recent research by Scott I opted to go light on the oats, moderately heavy on the carafoam, fairly high on the calcium chloride, and high on the mash temperature with just a touch of caramel malt and sulfate to show some classic IPA character. For bonus points I named the beer after a lyric from a Bay Area band.

Westward On IPA Recipe
Expect OG: 1.061
Actual OG: 1.064
Estimated Efficiency: 75%
Actual Efficiency: 79%
Expected FG: 1.014
Actual FG: 1.013
Apparent Attenuation: 79%
ABV: 6.7%
Tasting Notes:
Appearance: Bright golden color with moderate haze. Voluminous white head that sticks around for a while and leaves pretty lacing all the way down the glass. A pretty photogenic beer that makes me crave a sip immediately. Probably somewhere between West Coast and NEIPA in terms of haze and color, certainly not milkshake-y but only moderately translucent. Has gotten clearer with time in the cold chest freezer but probably won't get much clearer than this.

Smell: Grapefruit, candied orange peel, Christmas tree pine, fall foliage, light touches of tropical/papaya and apricot yielding a mostly classic IPA hop character. There's some slight malt with caramel/toast mixing in with the leaf character. Not as fruit forward and tropical as I like but a pleasant mix that smells like an IPA.

Taste/Mouthfeel: This one goes down easy with just some light citrus up front followed by a lot of pine, papaya, and orange peel that lingers into a fairly dry and strongly bitter finish that draws me back for more. The carbonation level feels much lower than I expected for the 15 PSI it has been sitting at and the body feels full but not as creamy as an NEIPA and with a dry but refreshing finish. There's both a little bit of a weird onion character and some astringency in the mix but not enough of either to ruin the beer in anyway.

Overall: Sometimes I have a hard time determining whether my beers are good or not. This is especially true of IPAs and this one certainly falls in that category. The beer looks great and I have found myself easily downing a pint (or more) while trying to determine how I feel about it. I think it's probably a pretty solid IPA that just doesn't hit the high notes of my favorite NEIPAs or my favorite hoppy beers in general. That said, it does seem to do a pretty solid job of straddling the line between East Coast and West Coast IPAs with plenty of bitterness but also some haze and body. This yeast blend, and other features of this beer, may not be ideal for really bringing out the sweet and tropical characters I am looking for but they turned out a solid IPA.
12/11/17 Brew day notes: Did not hit the high mash temperature I was going for, as I forgot to correct the calculator's strike temp for my system (I always hit ~5 degrees less than expected) and only mashed in at 154. I did a fairly thin mash and a hybrid fly sparge.

1/4 oz. Columbus hops were added during the sparge, with 1/2 oz. Amarillo added 30 minutes after the boil, 1 oz. Nugget added 15 minutes later, 10 minutes later I turned off the electric stove and added the Citra and left on the same burner for 5 minutes at a near boil. Whirlpool hops were added in several additions in the middle of chilling, from around 200 F to around 160 F.

Chilling in multiple ice baths for 3 hours was only able to bring temperature down to 75. Pitched 800mL starter of my current "Inglés" yeast blend and an old, but not yet expired, pack of Nottingham dry yeast.

12 hours later the beer is fermenting heavily and airlock was replaced with a blowoff tube. Surprisingly not a ton of hop aromas coming off. Beer temp down to 69 F.

Added dry hops. Gravity down to 1.013 (7.5 plato refractometer reading). Smells a bit solventy and harsh but taste is more of a classic Pale Ale/IPA piney hoppiness.

Racked to 5 gallon keg with 2 more ounces of Citra and my stainless steel filter over the out tube. Less volume than I planned (noticeably less than 5 gallons) given the 5.5 gallon recipe size and relative volume in the fermenter but a decent amount was lost to trub and hops as expected. Tastes strongly hoppy but the balance isn't quite right. Hopefully a little time on the keg hops will help.

Tasting notes above.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bière de Réserve

Bière de Garde is a strange style: it's considered a farmhouse ale like saison but is actually very different and is actually lagered. Aside from the lagering aspect, and a balance towards malt, there doesn't seem to be any set definition or ingredients that make something a bière de garde. It can be gold, amber, or brown; moderately alcoholic to very strong; use European or English hops; use lager yeast, fairly neutral ale yeast, or characterful Belgian yeast, and in some cases can even have brettanomyces. I've only had 2 beers labeled as Bière de Gardes: Flying Dog's Garde Dog, knocked as not being within the style parameters by most reviews, and Right Proper's Baron Corvo, a mixed fermentation bière de garde.

In coming up with my recipe I focused on the 2 things that definitely define the style (malt forward and lagered) and looked at homebrew recipes from Michael Tonsmeire and Gus Addkinson to get a ballpark idea of ingredients and decided to use an array of toasted and crystal malts to compliment the German pilsner base.

Part of my desire to brew a beer in this style is my love for "farmhouse" ales and "wild" ales. With this in mind I planned to add BKYeast C2 (and possibly other yeast or bacteria) to part of this batch to give it some more farmhouse "rustic" character, instead of just being a toasty/malty kolsch. I chose this Brett strain after tasting a 100% C2 beer recently and thought that the mild earthy/fruity/dusty/"wild strawberry" characteristics would go well with this style.

I made one big mistake when designing this beer and wrote the recipe for 5 gallons for the ingredients but 6 gallons for the water profile, leaving the beer with a much lower gravity (1.052) than I aimed for (1.062). I ended up adding 4 oz. of sugar and 8 oz. of malt extract to bump up the gravity a touch.
Brett version pictured on the left with the plain version on the right.

12/27/17 Side by Side Tasting:
Plain: Heavily carbonated with a massive white head that lasts as a thin layer with thick foamy lacing left behind. Coppery amber in color with decent clarity, just a little haze.
Brett: Much less heavily carbonated with a quickly fading head that leaves no lacing. Similar coppery color with a touch less haze due to the lower carbonation not shaking up as much sediment.

Plain: Mild fruitiness with a strange sour, vegetal and earthy squash like character. Light caramel malt aromas and a touch of phenolic smoke.
Brett: Overripe fruit up front with some peppercorn, clove, and green pepper. Slightly vinous and caramelly.

Plain: Light berry fruitness mingles with moderate peppery phenolics that lead into sweet lightly caramel malt followed by more spiciness and a low bitterness with lingering spice and vegetal character. High carbonation makes the phenolic character even more prickly but it calms down with some time and warmth. Some astringency from an unknown source. Fuller bodied than the brett version but doesn't feel thick despite 1.016 FG.
Brett: Medium earth and fruit mingle with a lingering spicy bitterness. Seems less phenolic and the low carbonation and thin body adds to the vinous character.

I'm really not crazy about this one and almost ditched the tasting and the whole post. That said, the brett version does seem a little better despite only mild changes and I could see this strain working great in a slightly better base bière de garde. In terms of how to get to a better base bière de garde I'm not sure what I would change to avoid the phenolic character other than a change in yeast and maybe cutting some of the toasted malts. I also wonder if the hop choices contributed at all to the earthy/vegetal character that is a little too strong for my tastes. Overall, not the beer I wanted it to be but not undrinkable.


9.0 lb
Pilsner (DE)
79 %
1 °L
1.0 lb
White Wheat (US)
9 %
2 °L
12 oz
7 %
28 °L
4.35 oz
Honey Malt
2 %
25 °L
3.25 oz
2 %
23 °L
2.0 oz
Crystal 150L
Great Western
1 %
150 °L
1.0 oz
Fuggle (UK)
60 min
0.5 oz
60 min
0.25 oz
15 min

Brewed 6/17/17
Cooled to room temperature and placed in 6 gallon fermenter with Wyeast 2565 Kolsch.

Split batch between two 3 gallon plastic carboys, adding a starter of C2 Brett to one. These were placed in a chest freezer set to 35F.

Both batches were pulled out of the chest freezer and allowed to rise to room temperature (~66F) for at least one week in order to ensure full attenuation before bottling.

Bottled the clean half with 1.5 oz. sucrose aiming for ~2 volumes of carbonation. Final gravity is higher than expected at 1.016 and quite a bit higher than expected and shows a much lower attenuation than the style calls for. This may be closer to a Marzen but tastes like a nice, if a tad too sweet/caramelly, lager. The "Avec Brett" half will be given more time as the gravity is only down to 1.012 and may be able to fall further.

Brett version bottled as it was still sitting at 1.012. Tasting good with just light fruit/earth/funk from the C2 strain on top of the clean and malty character of the base beer.

The clean half has become surprisingly "Belgian-y" with a spicy phenolic character that gives the impression of Belgian yeast. While some phenols aren't entirely out of style in a bière de garde, the beer seems to have transitioned from a clean, Marzen like beer into something closer to a Belgian blonde. I'm not sure where this yeast character could have come from but have to assume that a Belgian/Saison/Brett/wild yeast strain capable of producing phenols (POF+) was picked up in bottling. A full side by side tasting will be done once the Brett half is carbonated.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Young Bohemian Czech Pilsner

It's been just over 3 years since my first time brewing a lager. The beer was a Bohemian Pilsner that turned out quite tasty despite a little more diacetyl than I would have liked. The beer was inspired by my European trip that included a visit to the Czech Republic (Bohemia is the largest region in the Czech Republic) had me obsessed with all things lager, especially the classic pilsner.

 After moving to San Francisco recently I've seen an abundance of available German style Pilsners (e.g. Sudwerk Northern Pilsner and Trumer Pils) but not many of the Czech variety, which I generally prefer. With my chest freezer essentially empty due to no kegs being on tap I decided to use the availability and try and recreate this previous recipe with just a few tweaks.

In order to minimize diacetyl I switched from the Wyeast 2000 Budvar strain to the Wyeast 2278 Czech Pils. I also switched from Briess carapils to Weyermann Carafoam and had additionally intended to replace the Simpsons CaraMalt with the lighter Weyermann Carahell, but forgot to include it in my order and ended up replacing it as well with the Carafoam. I dumbly decided to drop a half pound of Weyermann Pilsner malt at the last minute due to my recently high efficiency and ended up getting only a 1.046 wort, still in line with the style and a decent efficiency but a touch lower than I had aimed for. The hops were kept the same except for a large Saaz dose replacing the Magnum.

I mashed at 156F (to partially compensate for the omitted carahell malt) with just 3 gallons for a 1.4 quart/pound ratio. I typically do thinner mashes (often over 1.5 qts/lb) and I wonder if my lower than expected efficiency was due to this change, or the high mash temp. The mash was very interesting as it was the foamiest and haziest mash I have seen. I assume this is due to the Carafoam.

The batch also boiled over with extreme vigor, something I had not seen in a long time and was not expecting on the electric stove. After the boil the beer was split between two pots which were each put in an ice bath but due to limited space I was only able to get them down to ~110F. I recombined, transferred to a 6 gallon better bottle and placed it in my chest freezer (set to 45F) in the hopes of getting it down to pitching temps overnight
There was about 4 times this much hop gunk left in the kettle


Pitched fully inflated yeast pack into wort at 48F and increased chest freezer temp to 50F
24 hours after pitching, no signs of activity, increased chest freezer temp to 55F.

Increased chest freezer temperature to 63F.
Fermentation slow but still going. Taste is mostly good clean Pilsner malt and Saaz hops with a little too much diacetyl, hopefully that clears up with another few days of warmth.

Surprisingly turbid looking. Pulled out of fridge to try to remove last of diacetyl. Active fermentation seems to have entirely slowed. Smells fairly butterscotchy but diacetyl taste is not as strong and has fallen in the last few days. The rest of the flavor is nicely grainy, grassy, and fairly bitter.

Still looks pretty turbid. Returned to fridge at 32 F.

No noticeable change in looks. Moved to keg still at 32 F.

Shockingly cloudy after 48 hours at 32 F. Taste is pretty good, a slightly aggressive spicy hop character and bitterness that lingers nicely and low to moderate diacetyl (maybe a touch higher than I'd like but not overpowering). The look and thick creamy mouthfeel are the most surprising aspects of the beer to me. I assume the high mash temperature and Carafoam likely created a lot of dextrins that left this beer looking like a NEIPA but it's hard to complain about a beer that otherwise tastes pretty good. I guess I'll call this a kellerbier now, or a New England Pilsner.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

San Francisco Brew Setup and Brew Day (Maisonette 9.1)

A little backstory on this brewday: In late November I moved from the D.C. area to San Francisco. A few months prior to my move my wife Alyssa headed out to the west coast without me. Her company paid for a moving truck to take everything from her apartment in Charlottesville. To take advantage of this I moved all of my kegging equipment (and most of my other possessions) and had them shipped to sunny California. 

I kept my brewing equipment in the D.C. area (3+ months without brewing seemed unbearable) and rediscovered my dislike for bottling. Moving to San Francisco presented me with a chance to either ship my brewing system or start anew. After assessing the shipping costs I decided to gave away my fermenters, kettles, grain, and just about everything else that didn't easily fit in my checked bag which was already carrying the rest of my life. In the end I brought my yeast bank, hops stash, grain mill + drill, thermometer, refractometer, and campden tabs (to treat chlorinated water). Unfortunately my kegging setup got fairly ruined from being in the chest freezer and ended up with everything covered in rust and mold. A few PBW soaks and lots of elbow grease later I was able to save the chest freezer and temperature controller but had to replace the disconnects, tubing, regulator, manifold. Note to self: don't do that again!
Starting anew with your brewing setup has its downsides (like spending ~$1000 to replace everything) but also plenty of positives:
  1. A chance to review your setup and determine what you like and what you don't: pretty happy overall with my system but it had lots of lifting, would like to minimize that
  2. A chance to buy shiny new toys that you've always wanted: I bought a nice small weight scale and got a mash tun with a thermometer
  3. A chance to get past those little breaks, defects, and missing components that you've just been working around: my old false bottom was loose and missing a nut, some of my old bucket fermenters were infecting everything that touched them

In many ways starting anew made me realize how happy I was with my setup: 1 boil kettle with thermometer + a 5 gallon stock pot, plastic cooler with false bottom mash tun, and plastic carboys. Pretty basic but simple to operate and capable of doing anything I've ever needed.

Some changes to my setup:
  1. Switch from the propane burner I've enjoyed to an electric stovetop, fortunately I'm able to get 5 gallons of mash water to 160 in under 25 minutes and 7 gallons at 160 to boiling in under 35. This adds a little more time on brew day but not too much and can't really be avoided in an apartment.
  2. My new mash tun has a thermometer. I went back and forth on adding this and ultimately feel like it was unnecessary but for only $10 more (it was on sale) than one without one its no big loss. While measuring mash temperature is hugely important and this should be convenient, it is inserted so high in the tun that I have to do a very thin mash (or a very large grain bill) to get it fully submerged.
  3. Fermenting in kegs. This isn't something I plan to permanently/regularly do but the plastic carboys I ordered are arriving later than most of my other supplies so rather than delay brewing I thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the kegs. Rather than use a blow-off tube or drill into a keg lid to fit an airlock I wedged a wine cork into the ring for the pressure relief valve to keep it open during primary fermentation.
  4. Immersion chiller: Without a garden hose I wasn't sure how I would be able to hook one up but have been looking at some kitchen converters because not having one is a pain.
  5. No grains in bulk: While I plan to buy some bulk bags of grain they aren't cheap to ship. I also had accumulated a lot of various crystal malts and roasted malts that I could grab in a pinch. Now I have to know what's on hand.
  6. Lots of small items: There are a lot of things I accumulated over years of brewing that I didn't think about when re-ordering but now regret not having. Some examples include water treatment salts, flasks, DME, mason jars, growlers, small fermenters (e.g. 1 gallon jugs).
  7. Not being able to compost: Throwing spent grains and hops/trub in a compost pile and rinsing out with a garden hose has been such a convenient way to dispose of brew day waste. Now I have to move all waste into a bag and throw in the trash. I also don't have a garbage disposal so I have to be very careful about what goes down the drain.

Beer and brew day: In order to break in the new system and keep things somewhat simple I went with another iteration of my tried and true Maisonette. This should also ensure that I have a delicious beer on tap in no time. The brew day went pretty well with no real difficulties although I omitted the usual turbinado sugar since I didn't have any on hand, leading to a slightly lower gravity than usual. I split the wort between 2 kegs (3 gallons in each 5 gallon keg) and pitched my Maisonette blend from the last batch in one and a fresh pitch of Wyeast Belgian Saison in the other. I also collected about 1.5 gallons of second runnings which was pitched with dregs from the DCHB Blend #5 in order to build up the culture.
4 ounces of hops in six gallons of a 1.035 beer
Belgian Saison:
After 12 hours: light bubbles, but no real krausen
After 24 hours: Large krausen
After 96 hours: Fermentation still noticeably active. Gravity down to ~1.018 based on refractometer reading of 1.025. Tasting good but a little too sweet and worty at this early stage.
After 120 hours: Pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
Transferred to serving keg set to PSI. I came back two hours later to find my kegerator full of a brown liquid. The picnic tap had fallen to a spot where it was being compressed by the roof of the chest freezer and had managed to all leak out :-(. Three gallons of amazing beer down the drain.

Maisonette Blend:
After 12 hours: No real activity
After 24 hours: Still no real activity, Wallonian Farmhouse II from TYB added in case other yeast was completely dead.
After 36 hours: Still no real activity
After 48 hours: Finally bubbling away with a small krausen
After 72 hours: Still active bubbling in krausen
After 96 hours: Fermentation seriously slowed. Gravity down to ~1.003 based on refractometer reading of 1.015. Tasting okay but there's a little of the bubblegum from the Wallonian II that I don't love. Pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
Transferred to serving keg and set to 20 PSI. Taste is mostly nice hops and a bit of fruity yeast character with just a very slight tartness and weird gym sock funk.
Update: This keg kicked pretty quickly but was a tasty beer similar to many other batches. Not the best batch I've made but not far off with the funky character fading a bit to give way to more of the fruity hops and yeast.

Second Runnings Beer (1.015 OG):
After 12 hours: No real activity
After 24 hours: Still no real activity, my Sour Blend #1 (Roeselare+dregs) added
After 36 hours: Small krausen
After 72 hours: Krausen activity very slow, pressure relief valve closed to minimize oxygen.
After 96 hours: Gravity down to 1.003 based on refractometer reading of 1.015. Taste is fine, fairly clean and bland at this point. Reminds me of an under-soured Berliner.
Transferred about 1 gallon to a water bottle and caught a jar of the yeast slurry. Taste is similar to before, thin, bland, under-soured, and pretty uninteresting.