Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Cooper (Bourbon-Oaked Robust Porter) - Brew Day

Like most beer nerds, I'm obsessed with Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout.  The velvety, luscious, pancake syrup of a stout blends perfectly with the character that the charred bourbon barrels add to the base beer.  There beer is paired perfectly with fireplaces, bear rugs, well-trained dogs eating a bone laying next to arm chairs, and other bourgeois endeavors.
My HPRIMS system...Hand-Powered Recirculating Infusion Mash
There are a myriad of clone recipes out there, all with seemingly varying success, but I decided to take a slightly different tack.  Instead of full-on trying to clone the beer, I thought about what beer in my recipe database would lend itself to this type of process.  The one that I kept coming back to was my batch of The Peon, a Hill Farmstead's Everett-inspired porter.  This porter, while lower in alcohol, had the same velvety, syrupy sweetness that I get from BCBS.

For this iteration of the recipe, I did a mash more in line with what Sean Hill of HF uses.  Namely, a shortened mash time -- 30 minutes -- with the dark, roasted grains only added for the final 5 minutes. Additionally, I upped my IBUs a bit for this beer, as some of the oak additions, detailed below, should add some vanilla-like sweetness that would probably benefit from some balance.

For the oak addition, I went with 1.50oz of Medium Toast French Oak (I happened to have a lot of this on hand) that had been soaking in Maker's Mark for several weeks.  After primary fermentation, the bourbon will be strained off of the oak and the bourbon-infused oak will be added to the beer.  The beer will sit on the oak for at least a couple of months or until I feel the bourbon and oak character has melded well.  I'm not ruling out adding actual fresh bourbon to the batch as well, although I'm hoping I don't have to do this.

The Cooper (Porter with Bourbon-Soaked Oak)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.080
Est FG: 1.026 (but will probably finish higher)
Est ABV: 7.2%
IBU:  46
SRM: 42

14.5lb Maris Otter
1.25lb UK Caramel 40L
1.25lb Roasted Barley
1.00lb Carapils
1.00lb Pale Chocolate Malt
0.50lb Caramel 80L

1.1oz CTZ @ FWH (46 IBU)

1000ml starter of WY1028 London Ale

1.50oz Medium Toast French Oak soaked in Maker's Mark

Mash @ 159f for 25 minutes (non-roasted grains only)
Mash @ 159f for 5 minutes (add dark grains)

12/20/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Efficiency came in a little lower than usual, around 75%, probably due to the large grain bill.  Had to add a little DME to the boil to bring up the gravity.  Gathered 5.5 gallons of 1.082 wort.  Bubbling away within a few hours at 64F.

12/28/2014 -- Added 1.50oz of bourbon soaked oak.

1/15/2015 -- Added 1.25 beans of Madagascar Vanilla, cut and scraped.

1/23/2015 -- Bottled to 2.2 vol.  Finished at 1.030.  Blended in some fresh Makers Mark to taste.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries) - Brew Day

So, in the interest of experimentation, I'm going to be attempting to brew a sour in a quicker fashion than your usual lambic.  I'm hoping that my process (detailed below -- and similar to a Berliner Weisse), will result in a sour beer that can go from grain to glass in a matter of several months, rather than the normal 12-18 months required as a minimum for most sours.  I fully imagine that this will result in a "less complex" soured beer, but I'm planning to age it on cherries for some time to add some complexity and try to emulate some of the characteristics of a kriek.

My plan is to produce a moderately fermentable, traditional grist, lambic wort from a mid-range mash temperature.  After the sparge, I'm going to adjust the pH of the wort pre-boil to a touch below 4.5.  The reason for this is that Lactobacillus has an enzyme that denatures head forming proteins at a pH above 4.5, and I want there to be an acceptable head on this batch.
L. brevis starter along with some Brett Trois
After boiling, I'll pitch a culture of Lactobacillus brevis once the wort is chilled to around 100F.  This will be hooked up to my temperature controller and the FermWrap will be attached to keep the carboy at around 80f for a couple of days.  I'm going to take daily pulls of the beer to check the pH levels and taste for acidity.  Ideally, I'd do an acid titration as the pH can fall pretty rapidly once the buffers have been overcome, but I don't have the equipment (nor, coincidentally, do I have any idea how to do it).

Once the pH has fallen into the mid-low 3 range, I'm going to pitch an active starter of Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. drie (Brett Trois) and proceed with a primary Brett fermentation.  After this has subsided, I'm going to give it a taste.  If there's a decent amount of sourness and a pleasant funk, I'm going to pitch it onto sour cherries at a rate of 1.5lb/gallon.  If it is mediocre, and could be better, I may do a split batch with cherries in both but an additional Brettanomyces strain in one of the carboys with the idea of blending them down the line.

This probably won't work, but fuck it.

Of course, on brew day my pH meter decided to completely go haywire.  I fucking hate those things.  I used my brewing chemistry spreadsheet to try to figure out the acid addition required to drop the wort pH below 4.5

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries)
Est OG: 1.049
Est FG: 1.008
Est ABV: 5.45%
IBU: 5
SRM: 5

7.50lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
4.00lb Flaked Wheat
0.62lb Aromatic Malt

0.30oz Willamette @ FWH (5 IBU)

1pkg Wyeast Lactobacillus Brevis WY5223
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Clausenii (maybe)

7.5lb Frozen, thawed tart cherries

Mash @ 151f for 60 minutes

12/9/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash efficiency came in at 83%.  My pH meter conked out and failed to calibrate at one of the most inopportune times possible, so I was unable to check if my spreadsheet estimates of the acid required to drop the wort pH down to below 4.5.  Anyways, gathered 5.5 gallons of wort at 1.051 gravity.  Pitched lacto starter when the wort was around 100F.  I have the FermWrap set to 85f, but I think its too cold in my basement for it to hold that temp.  It was probably around 78f through the night.

12/10/2014 -- Figured out that I needed a new electrode for my pH meter.  Amazon Prime same day shipping is a wonderful thing.  I measured the pH of some wort that I had in a hydrometer tube from last night and that came in at 4.86.  My pH is now down to around 3.85 less than 24 hours later, which is a pretty nice drop.  There is a slight lactic tartness in the nose, and even less in the taste, but the taste is tough just because its still fairly sugary wort.  I'm going to resample tomorrow evening and most likely pitch my Brett Trois starter.

12/12/14 -- Down to a pH of 3.6. Going to keep her going for a while.

12/13/14 -- pH down to 3.55. Still truckin.

12/15/14 (Morning) -- So, pH still at around 3.55.  I managed to put the carboy into my fridge with the FermWrap on and had the temp raise to around 95f.  It doesn't seem like it's make much of a difference.  I have a smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin that I might toss in as well tonight if there's still no budge in pH.

12/15/2014 (Evening) -- Added the smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin.  This is one of their Private Collections and contains a fast-acting Lacto (probably another dose of Brevis) and a Sacc strain.  I do want some Brett character in this so I'll be adding that Brett starter as well.  It'll be interesting to see who wins -- Sacc or Brett -- as the strain that does the primary fermentation.  My bet is on the Brett, given its in a starter and then Sacc is in a somewhat old smackpack.  Lets see how this does.

12/17/2014 (Morning) -- Some activity in the fermenter.  Took a pH sample this morning and it was down to 3.52.  So, some slight progress.  Will check again tonight and potentially pitch the Brett.

12/17/2014 (Evening) -- pH dropped down to 3.50.  Definite activity in the carboy, although not a lot of krausen.  Really hard to tell if it was the alleged brevis in the Oud Bruin blend or the sacc strain.  It definitely didn't look like a sacc fermentation to me.  Anyways, I pitched the starter of Brett Trois and lowered the temp in the fridge to 80f from 95f to bring it more into line for a Brett fermentation.

12/18/2014 -- pH down to 3.40.  Nice light lactic tartness that I hope continues to develop.

12/28/2014 -- pH remains at 3.40.  Like before, there is a nice lactic bite to this one, not super strong, but I'm sure that will develop over time.  At almost three weeks, it is similar to 6-7 month sours that I've had in my pipeline.  I'm pretty happy about my approach on this one, as I believe the fruit and other additions I'm toying with will complement this nicely lactic, although one-dimensional, beer quite well.

1/3/2015 -- Split the batch into two carboys.  One half got 5lb of apricot puree and will get some vanilla bean and cinnamon stick before bottling.  The other half got 5lb of tart cherries.  Sample before fruiting was a soft lactic.  Added half a vial of Brett Brux to each.

1/25/2015 -- Racked off of fruit to clear before bottling.  Added 0.33 beans of vanilla to the apricot portion.

1/29/2015 -- Bottled both batches to 3.1 vol.  Finished around 1.004.  Bottled with Brett C.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Provocateur (American Pale Ale) -- Brew Day

So, since I'm waiting for a few pounds of hops from the 2014 harvest -- dammit Label Peelers send me my hops! -- I decided to do an APA that was somewhat of a blend of my grain bill for The Gentleman and that of Tired Hand HopHands.  I really love how the blend of Pilsner and 2-Row highlight the hops in an APA, but I also loved the texture provided by flaked oats that can be found in the Tired Hands lineup.

When I brewed the HopHands clone earlier this year, it retained a bit of a vegetal taste for a few weeks after it was ready.  I've attributed this to the large dry hop that I probably left on for a little too long.  I've since shortened my dry hopping contact times to around 3-4 days.  I've found no deterioration in hop flavor (arguably more) and the vegetal character has essentially disappeared.  I've made some slight changes to the hop bill from my clone before (more hops!), but this should be similar to the last brew, with maybe a more crisp grain bill.

Brew day was pretty standard.  My mash efficiency continues to be ridiculous since I bought the new mill.  I'm trying to compensate for the increase, but it's still a little erratic depended on the size of the grain bill.  I'll get it one of these days...

The Provocateur (American Pale Ale)
5.5 gallon batch -- 90 minute boil
Est OG: 1.047
Est FG: 1.011
Est ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 41
SRM: 3

5.00lb Pilsner Malt
3.00lb 2-Row Malt
1.50lb Flaked Oats
0.50lb Carapils

0.30oz Magnum @ FWH (15 IBU)
0.50oz Amarillo @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.50oz Centennial @ 5 min (3 IBU)
0.50oz Simcoe @ 5 min (4 IBU)
1.50oz Amarillo @ Steep 5 min (4 IBU)
1.50oz Centennial @ Steep 5 min (5 IBU)
1.50oz Simcoe @ Steep 5 min (6 IBU)
2.00oz Amarillo @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Centennial @ Dry Hop 4 Days
2.00oz Simcoe @ Dry Hop 4 Days

1000ml starter of WLP200 Best of Both Worlds

Mash @ 152f for 60 minutes

12/8/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Brew day went pretty normally.  The new Brew Bag that I ordered is fantastic and fits perfectly in my cooler and kettle.  Mash efficiency came in at a whopping 88%.  My efficiency on these lower OG batches are simply outrageous since purchasing my own grain mill.  Ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.050 wort, pitched starter and I'm letting it ferment at ambient (room temp around 62f) in my basement.

12/28/2014 -- Added dry hops.

1/1/2015 -- Bottled.  Finished at 1.009.  Tasted slightly vegetal.

Tasting Notes: The Patriot & The Great Unknown

The Patriot (Nelson Saison)

Appearance -- Fluffy white head that lasts for around a minute and dissipates into a small froth.  Color is distinctly golden/straw, with an opaque haze.  Tough to tell if the haze is chill haze or from the dry hopping.

Aroma -- Fairly distinct Belgian character in the nose.  Lots of fruity esters.  Tough to distinguish what is from the yeast and what is from the Nelson Sauvin hops.  I have to admit that despite the generous Neslon hopping on this one, the characteristics of the hop don't seem to be shining through in the aroma.

Taste --  Lots of Nelson on the tongue with a ton of almost "spicy" flavor.  Surprised by the amount of spice to be honest given there wasn't any rye in the recipe.  It must be the saison strain throwing all of that off.  I wasn't blown away by this beer, but others really enjoyed it.  I was hoping to get some of that fruity flavor Nelson can impart, but this just doesn't have any of that.

Mouthfeel --  Medium body, probably aided a touch from the higher carbonation.  I'd say it came out a bit on the thicker side despite ending with a fairly low FG.

Overall --  I liked this beer, but it really wasn't my favorite.  I think I may try this again in the future, maybe with some Galaxy thrown in.  This would probably work out much better with WY3711.  This beer did score a 36 and took 3rd in Belgian Specialty at Monk Melee IV out of 20 beers in the category, though.  Maybe I'm just picky.

The Great Unknown (Modern Times Beer Neverwhere) -- 100% Brett IPA

Appearance -- Golden, slightly darker than what could be considered "straw colored", but definitely on the paler end of the spectrum.  Pours with a thick, fluffy, white head that subsides after a few minutes into a light froth.  Some chill haze from the dry hopping and the Brettanomyces.

Aroma -- All tropical fruits.  It literally smells like some sort of fruit punch.  It's hard to tell what's from the hops and what's from the yeast.  Usually this hop combination wouldn't be this damn tropical.

Taste --  The taste follows the nose with wonderful notes of tropical fruit, melon, and pears.  Tastes almost like a Fruit Roll Up...really brings me back to my elementary school days.  A hint of grassiness, potentially from the huge amount of hops, but its tolerable given the flavor and barely noticeable.

Mouthfeel --  Medium body, almost creamy -- probably should be a bit thinner although I tend to enjoy a beer like this in the winter.  Subsequent to brewing I read that 100% Brett beers should be brewed with a VERY fermentable wort as it likes to kick out at around 1.012 or so.

Overall --  I'm really happy with how this one turned out, given it was my first 100% Brett beer.  Next time around, I'm going to create a more fermentable wort and cold crash this one for a longer time.  Chad Yakobsen mentioned on TBN that he cold crashes his beers sometimes for up to 2 weeks to clear the Brett haze.  I don't know if I would go to that length, but maybe some gelatin fining would help.