Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Blight (American Farmhouse Ale) - Tasting Day

** Update:  This beer received a 39 at the Philly NHC competition in 16E.  Unfortunately the score wasn't good enough to move on to min-BOS, which only speaks to the quality of the other beers at the competition.  Well done guys.  No real feedback on what could make this one better, but it was a bit young for the brett qualities to come out and I may regrew and age this one a bit more for another judging. **

A while back I had read about bottling a traditionally fermented beer with a strain of brettanomyces.  I've always loved brett flavors in a light saison and I figured that this would pair well with some of the newer, fruity hops available on the market now.  Several brewers have commented in the past tha in order to bring out really well-rounded brett flavors, the beer should undergo a brett fermentation in the bottle.  We'll see.

The process is, on paper, easy enough.  Brew day and fermentation proceed as you normally would, but then at bottling, you add a bit of brettanomyces to each bottle.  I've pored over various taste tests online judging potential brett strains to use and I was torn between using Brett Trois and Brett Bruxellensis.  After hearing about how sometimes Trois can be a more muted flavor (and having less than satisfactory results previously with the muted B. clausenii) I decided to go for a full punch of brett flavor and chose the B. bruxellensis.

I had a significant amount of trouble with the fermentation for this batch.  I fully knew going into it that my yeast choice, the Saison DuPont strain, was incredibly finicky and has a tendency to conk out at around 1.020 if high temperatures aren't maintained.  Figuring this wouldn't happen to me, I proceeded anyways.

Then, it happened to me.  Living in a brick rowhome in Philly, I don't really have a ton of room for temperature control.  I usually ferment in my basement, which keeps fermenting beers in the high 60f range.  After a week or two of shaking the fermenter and trying the rouse the yeast and seeing no change in gravity, I went back to the drawing board.  I moved the fermenter so it was sitting directly on top of a heating vent and I pitched some S-04 dry yeast.  I figure a little bit of fruity English yeast wouldn't hurt all that much and hopefully the added yeast activity and heat would also kick up the Saison yeast.  Luckily this worked and it dropped down to 1.008 within a week.

As for bottling, I bottled half of the batch in regular 12oz bottles without any brett.  I really wanted to compare the two after a bit of time in the bottles.  For the brett potion, I bottled the rest into 12 750ml belgian bottles.  I poured my packet of Wyeast Brett Brux into a santized bowl and with a medicine dropper I placed roughly 20 drops into each bottle.  Afterwards they were corked & caged.

I just opened one after two weeks in the bottle.  It tastes almost just like the version without brett, actually almost a bit less interesting.  It seems my brett ate my hops.  I'll try another in a few weeks.

A - Deep, golden straw colored with a perfect white rocky head that lasts for quite a while followed with some lacing.  Clarity is decent, I didn't add any post-boil finings to this, but totally acceptable for a saison.

S - I get a lot of pear from this, albeit a bit more muted than the non-brett version.

T - A small amount of the "barnyard funk" that I was expecting.  I definitely haven't been all that impressed with the taste on this one.  Maybe its just too early?

M - On the thinner side, somewhat high carbonation.  This is basically what I was shooting for to stay within style.  Although it does reinforce the fact that I much prefer a fuller-bodied beer.

O - Decent.  Hopefully the brett characters that I have been looking for end up coming out on this one.  I'll keep popping a bottle every month and try to find the peak aging time for this one.  Hopefully its only a few more weeks.

The Blight (American Farmhouse Ale)
Est OG: 1.061
Est FG: 1.008
Est ABV: 7.0%
IBU: ~ 25
SRM: 5

12lb American 2-Row
1lb Belgian Clear Candi Syrup (end of boil)
0.5lb Flaked Barley
0.5lb Flaked Wheat

0.5oz Vanguard @ FWH 90min (9 IBU)
0.5oz Calypso @ 5min (5 IBU)
0.5oz Citra @ 5min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Mosaic @ 5min (4 IBU)
0.5oz Calypso @ Flameout (2 IBU)
0.5oz Citra @ Flameout (1 IBU)
0.5oz Mosaic @ Flameout (1 IBU)

Belgian Saison (Saison DuPont) WY3724
Brettanomyces Bruxellensis WY5112 (at bottling)

Mash @ 150f for 90min


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