Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sésquac, the Belgo-Russian Imperial Stout Returns!

It's been a while since I have brewed a Russian Imperial Stout. One of my all time favorites is Great Divides Yeti. These appear in a number of variations. The chocolate barrel aged version is quite fine. But of all of the variations, my favorite is the discontinued Belgian Yeti. There was something magical about how a belgian yeast could make such a big impact in softening the roast and hops this beer comes packing, but still make it a RIS. I tried it alongside the other variations when I was at the brewery while in town for GABF.  Of all the beers I tasted, this beer had the biggest impact on me and I had to try and recreate it. It was the first beer I brewed after I returned home!

The recipe was found online and seemed to have some backing. I believe it was published in one of the brewing magazines at some point. It was unknown which Belgian yeast Great Divide used so I picked French saison.

That first beer, brewed back in 2011 turned out incredibly well. As a home brewer it was one of the beers that makes you feel your beer can compete against any beer including the commercial versions. I loved ever single bottle of that beer. It went on to win a gold medal as a RIS in my local competition, the Beehive Brew-off.

This recipe was also used in my home-brew clubs first barrel fill. That beer used Cali ale yeast, but it picked up some brett along the way. The beer turned out pretty bad, but for some reason I refuse to dump the full corny keg still sitting in my basement.

This week I attempted to recreate the beer I made back in 2011. Things have changed in the brewery considerably since then and so I hope it doesn't change too much.

Here is the recipe:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brewing with Amalgamation ( Brett Super Blend from The Yeast Bay )

As of 8/21/2014 this was all I knew about the super brett blend from The Yeast Bay:

Amalgamation is the union of our six favorite Brettanomyces isolates from our microbe library. Each isolate produces a unique bouquet of bright and fruity flavors and aromas, and the combination of all of them into one blend results in the coalescence of these unique flavors and aromas into something truly special.

Expect this blend to create a dry beer with a bright and complex fruit-forward flavor and aroma, accompanied by some funk on the palate.

Temperature: 65 - 78 ºF, Attenuation: 85%+, Flocculation: Low

This is the text from the Yeast Bay's own website. Google provided me with nothing more than this! Could this really be? 

I have two vials of what I hope will be an amazing blend of brettanomyces and I want to share my impressions of this yeast with all who are interested.

The plan is to brew my belgian farmhouse ale. The majority will be fermented as usual with my own Brux Trois and Saison yeast blend.  A gallon of the wort will be set aside to be fermented only with the super blend from Yeast Bay.

One Aug 20th I kicked off a small starter with two vials of Amalgamation. Unfortunately the amount of yeast in these vials is similar to the amount of brett that White Labs typically gives you, that is to say not very much. The key to any all brett beer is having plenty of the yeast on hand. After about one week I stepped this up to a full 2000 ml starter. 

Version 1: One gallon will go into a small carboy where it will be fermented with the Amalgamation. Think of this as way to get familiar with the yeast as well as another step up in the culturing process.

Version 2:  I have a bunch of Brux Trois on hand and will ferment 14 gallons of the 15 gallon batch with that as well as a smaller amount of Giga yeast Saison II. 

If all goes well, and the brett blend is good I will keep it going with 3 gallons of wort at all times in a brew demon.

These 3 gallon Brew Demon carboys are great for storing brett. Whenever you pull yeast from it, just replace it with fresh wort from that same batch for which you are pitching. Always keep it as full as possible.

By doing this you can keep this yeast going for a very long time. Brett can sit dormant for at least 6 months and still be good. If your ever in doubt you can always pull some out and do a starter to make sure it is still active.

The Farmhouse recipe

Update 9/1: Brew day went off as planned and my Amalgamation starter went into 1 gallon of wort. Visible fermentation started up about 8 hours after pitching. The wort from the starter was quite sour, but most likely was due to the constant aeration.

Update 9/6: At six days into fermentation a gravity reading/tasting was in order. 

The Trois/Saison is sitting at 1.006

Nose is full of spicy phenols, alcohol, and yeast. No funk
Taste is more subtle than the nose. Fruity, spicy, and sour

The Amalgamation super brett is at 1.004

Nose is med light funk/sour, bready
Taste is very nice! funk right up front, followed by big fruitiness, and a mild acidic finish.

left is Trois, right is Amalgamation
Right now the super blend is much more drinkable. However I should note that it is also fairly well seperated from the yeast since I sampled from the top of the carboy. The trois version is in my conical so it was sampled from closer to the yeast. I believe this has a huge impact on the taste so far.

The next step is to cold crash both and sample again.

Update 9/8: Both of these beers are now in kegs. I will update this weekend with some more in-depth tasting notes. The Amalgamation was immediately re-pitched into another beer yesterday. We went for a Biere de garde. Most will be fermented cleanly with french ale yeast, but about 3 gallons was pitched with just the amalgamation. Fermentation started very fast. This is the carboy after about 5 hours. 

Update 10/20: It has been about 5 weeks since I have bottle up this beer. Sadly I only ended up with a handful of bottles. 

Amalgamation #1 (Le Fric base) tasting notes:

Aromahay, earthy, subtle brett, sourness

Appearancelight and hazy, nice big fluffy head that dissipates, but never fully drops. Nice lacing left in the glass.

Flavor: peach, apricot, juicy fruit, again very subtle brett funk coming through. Very nice level of sourness kicks in near the end. I very much like the balance of the fruit and sourness. Brett ands a nice additional layer to the beer, but in no way does it come close to the level of fruit and tart, which I like a lot.

Mouthfeel: Carb level is high, mouthfeel is helped somewhat by that fact but the beer never feels thin.

Note: The base of this beer did have 10% acidulated malt, but this beer has a much more pronounced tartness when compared to the version that had only Trois and Sasion yeast.

Amalgamation #2 (Biere de garde base) tasting notes:

Aroma: cherry, tartness, some subtle hints of funk

Appearance: amber reddish hued, medium clarity. head dissipates pretty quickly but a lacing persists throughout.

Flavor: dark fruit flavors, plum, cherry. Some acidity, but it is still background to the ripe dark fruitiness. Some rather bitter sensations end the flavor over the palette.

Mouthfeel: Carb level is high, mouthfeel is medium

Both beers are good. I liked the #1 better. The flavors are well blended, and the beer is somewhat approachable for those just finding their way into sour or funky beer. For those that already desire these types of beers, this one is highly drinkable... pretty much sessionable (at least flavor wise) in that it is not going to pound your palette into submission as quickly as other examples might.

The flavors are not as well blended in the #2 version. They are also all much stronger than the first. I also think that right now the hops are messing with this one. I do think over time this one will get to a point where it really kicks ass!

Unfortunately the one bottle of #1 that I still have will probably not last long enough for a side by side with #2 in the future!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

24 Hour Sour IPA (closed system kettle sour mash)

What if you could make a very sour beer using bacteria in 24 hours? Would you be interested in that?

One of the great things about home brewing is the ability to do whatever the hell you want. The cost of failure is practically nothing at this scale. Even if the beer ends in complete failure, the few dollars wasted on ingredients is well worth the knowledge gained. The beer brewed in the lab this past week falls squarely into the experimental (otherwise know as fuck it if it doesn't work) category.

Sour beers are all the rage these days. I have long been a fan of these beers but I do have a limit on sourness. More and more it seems some brewers have tried to take sourness to the extremes. To each their own, but sourness for the sake of sourness is not drinkable at all for me. I want to taste layers of flavors in my sour beers, not just sourness. 

I have done a few sour beers over the years. The big issue I have with brewing them is that many of the techniques either produce unpredictable results or take a very long time. These are things I have little patience for. One of the techniques I have used is making berliner weisse by pitching lacto and ale yeast. There are theories abound as to when to pitch the lacto and when to pitch the yeast. In my experience it is still always a crap shoot as to what you will end up with.

A friend and I have been thinking about doing a sour beer for some time now. To get around the issue of unpredictable pH and or long timelines we decided on a sour mash. Sour mashing is a technique where wort is soured pre boil, and then finished as you would with any other beer. This way you get an idea upfront on the level of sourness and it is very fast. The other thing to note with this method is that the beer will never really get any more sour over time.

Over the last few months we have refined the concept to try to keep the souring as clean as possible. What that meant was not doing the most traditional method in which wort is left in contact with grains in the mash tun. Sour mashing gone bad can result in many unpleasant vomit inducing smells.

The closed-system soured mash procedure

The first step is mashing and sparging as normal. Once all the wort makes it into the kettle a quick boil is in order. This was mainly done so we could use the boiling wort to sanitize the plate chiller we used to cool the wort down. This could also be beneficial for killing anything that made it through the mash process. However you could simply let your wort chill on its own to ~120 degrees and probably still be fine.

The next step is to move the wort it into a 15.5 gallon sankey keg (you could use a corny keg as well). The idea/benefit around moving to this vessel is that you can purge all oxygen. The nasty bugs that are possibly going to make your sour mash smell and taste terrible all need oxygen. Luckily our Lacto doesn't need that.

There are a number of ways to inoculate the wort. One is to add some crushed grain. It's cheap, but it is also somewhat unknown as to what all is on that grain besides the lacto. It may not matter much in this closed system, but you never know. Another fine option is to buy a lab produced lacto. Can't really go wrong there. However with this beer we used plain yogurt to introduce the souring bacteria we needed. I went with a brand called Siggi's as it had multiple cultures including the delbrueckii strain.

At this point you have a keg filled with wort that is ideally around 110 - 120 degrees and ready for your bug pitch. After pitching the keg is purged with co2. An hour or so into the process pressure was beginning to build again so released it and placed an airlock on the keg (Remove your gas in post and place a short piece of 1/2 inch silicone tubing on it with an airlock) This is the closed system. It took only 24 hours for the pH to drop to 3.1. The other great thing is that the wort had no strange smells or flavors. It tasted like a pilsner lemonade since the wort was sour, but also still sweet.

The last step is to finish the boil. This will also kill off all of the bacteria. When using yogurt some extra filtering is needed. The yogurt seemed to curdle so in order to keep those solids out of the kettle I threw some cheese cloth into a strainer and drained the wort through the strainer. From there a 90 minute boil was kicked off.
The eDrometer reading

Hot break

This method can be used for any style of sour beer. This version happens to be designed as an sour IPA. A sour IPA would not be possible without utilizing some sort of sour mash, or adding lactic acid after fermentation completes. This is because Lactobacillus cannot handle hop levels much over 10 IBUs. Most people would say bitterness and sourness are a bad combination. Maybe it will be terrible, but I have had a sour IPA from Trinity Brewing called Red Swing line that was amazing. This is an attempt at brewing something similar but is not in any way a clone of that beer.

One other issue you will need to consider when pre souring is the fermentation. The low pH is going to be stressful to the yeast. The lower the pH, the harder the time the yeast will have. You should still be able to use ale yeast into the mid 3's, but you will want to use a very large and healthy pitch. The other option, and the one I went with is to use brettanomyces. It has some additional tolerance when it comes to pH levels.

Update: After some adding this beer turned out to be great! It will be brewed again!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sauvignon Saison-brett [A split fermentation and re-blend with Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces]

More and more I have been successfully using brett as a primary fermenter. I have been very impressed by the fruit forward character  and restrained or non-existent barn flavor that a beer fermented only with Brux trois can deliver. I want to keep playing with this, but also want to try new things as well.

A mixed fermentation is a pretty typical way in which both brett and sacch yeasts are used. Think of the commercially available blends of these yeast such as American Farmhouse. I have used that particular yeast and found it to be good, but it is unknown what the ratios are. It is most likely that the sacch is by far the dominant fermenter and the brett is only there to provide a bit of flavor complexity as it would if you pitched sacch, attenuated, and then pitched brett.

I wanted to do a mixed fermentation, but I wanted something a little different than using a pre-formulated yeast blend. I still wanted to bring in the flavors associated with an all brett fermentation. What I proposed was a split fermentation with 50% of the wort fermented with saison yeast and the other 50% fermented with only brux trois. Then blend the two beers back together in some ratio yet to be determined.

I started with a base of imported pilsner, domestic pilsner and 2-row. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, but I also had other things to consider because I was fermenting with brett.

One thing I wanted to do was bring in a low but perceivable amount of acidity without the use of any bacteria. I am trying to turn this beer around in 30 days and bacteria just wasn't really an option. It is also difficult to ensure you get the pH level you are looking for with bacteria. To the mash I added 10% acidulated malt to bring that nice brightness I am looking for. Lastly I wanted to add a level of mouth feel and body that the brett version would not have. To do that I used a small amount of flaked wheat and golden oats. A touch of special b was used to add some color. The mash temp was kept at a low 148 to help the saison yeast bring the gravity of the beer down to what I hope to be about 1.004.

For hops I wanted to continue to play with and compliment the fruit forward nature of the brett. The main hop used is Nelson Sauvin to provide it's well known citris, fruit, and white wine notes. For bittering I used Rakau, another NZ hop that is well known for it's soft bitterness when used early in the boil. Planned is a dry hopping with more nelson, but that could always change based on how the beer tastes after blending.

Gravity, Alcohol Content and Color

Measured Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Measured Final Gravity: ? SG (estimated 1.005)
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.8 %
Bitterness: 27.9 IBUs
Est Color: 6.6 SRM

Update 6-17
The brew day went very smooth and I produced 16 gallons of this wort. 8 gallons was pitched into my conical with a 2000ml starter of French saison at 70 degrees. The other 8 gallons was pitched into a sankey keg that I use as a fermenter. I left about 1 gallon of a highly aromatic all brett trois pale ale in the sankey to kick off the brett fermentation. I could have tried to wash or decant the yeast it in, but it seemed unnecessary when the contents within were still so amazing.

48 hours after pitching the 1.052 wort, the trois version was already down to 1.012. It is super aromatic with tropical fruit, mainly pineapple and mango. The flavor is like that of amazing unsweetend pineapple juice.

The French saison version is sitting at about 72 degrees now and is down to 1.026 after 48 hours. While it still has some sweetness, the french saison esters are there in both the aroma and flavor.

In the next few days I plan on pushing the trois version into the conical. There I expect the saison yeast to go to work on the left over sugars the brett version is not going to touch in the hopes of getting the gravity down even more. It's an interesting concept to think that the sacch yeast is the one drying out this mixed sacch/brett blend.

Update 6/22

The two batches have now been a blended back together. On the 21st the saison fermentation was down to 1.003. The blend was not quite 50:50. I saved 1.75 gallons of the all brett version before adding the rest into the conical with the French saison version. Today the airlock is showing activity once again as the yeast works on the sugars introduced with the Brett version. Still undecided on dry hopping at this point.


I just received a new order of hops. One of them was 2014 Galaxy. The smell of that one was amazing! One of the most amazing smelling hops I have ever obtained. So of course the idea of dry hopping with more Nelson went out the window. Instead I added 3 oz of Galaxy. I will add a few more oz of Nelson in a few days.


I entered this beer and the brett only version into my local home brew competition the Beehive Brew off. They did not place, but they got good scores.

The brux only version actually brought the highest score I have ever received with a 45. The saison was well liked, but some of the judges felt there was not enough spicy phenolics for the style. It got a 32 which is pretty good considering they felt it was out of style.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recap: Lauterday brewers pour at the Mountain Brewers Fest!

On Saturday June 7th the Mountain Brewers Festival in Idaho Falls was crashed by home brew hooligans, The Lauter-day brewers! Formed in Salt Lake city in the fall of 2012 the Lauter-day brewers or LDB are the newest home brew club in the state of Utah. Since that time the club has grown to more than 35 active members and held many cool events all while helping each other improve brewing knowledge and skill. Just prior to the brew fest the club brewed and filled a red wine barrel and brewed a collaboration beer with Epic Brewing that will be on tap at The Annex soon.

With the Mountain Brewers Festival they turned their attention to educating the public that home brew is not what it used to be, and great beer can be brewed at home. Armed with what had to be the biggest selection of beers at one table the festival has ever seen, LDB showed up with 17 distinct beers that were served throughout the day. Many of these beers were very unique styles and might have been completely new to many of those tasting them. The feedback throughout the day was fantastic and many were taken by surprise to find out LDB is not a commercial brewery somewhere in Salt Lake City.

Just a sample of the beers served: Gose, DIPA, Black DIPA, Saison Brett, Cask hopped pale ale, brett pale ale, honey blonde, Roggenbier, and a number of other pales, IPAs, and others I can't recall at the moment.

It was a great experience for all, and was a great way to increase the exposure of the club! A huge thanks to all the LDB members that participated!

Monday, June 2, 2014

My first Commercial Brew day with Epic Brewing and The Lauter-day Brewers

A few months back my home brew club got an invitation to do a collaboration beer with Salt Lake Citys Epic Brewing for their gastro pub The Annex. The club decided to turn the collab into a competition.  With close to 40 members it would be difficult to come to any consensus so we randomly created 5 groups. Each group was tasked with coming up with 2 beers to submit to a testing panel made up of Epic brewers. The rules were to use ingredients from their inventory, keep it at 4% or under (Utah draft beer law). and turn it all around in just over 30 days.

It was a really fun event and my group ended up brewing 7 beers in a single day! We brewed 3 different variations of a wit and 2 variations of white IPA.  We also did two all brett pale ales. The wits turned out being too experimental and needing some refinement. The white IPAs were both pretty good. One of the brett beers was not good, and one was excellent. My group ended up presenting a white IPA and an all brett pale ale with Citra and Amarillo.

Epic narrowed it down to two beers, the brett pale with citra and amarillo and a hibiscus wheat from another team. Epic's head brewer, Kevin Crompton, liked the hibiscus beer a little more, but due to the non-beer ingredient the beer would need approvals and that would have pushed out the brew date too far. So the brett pale ale is what was brewed.

It seems to me that this beer will have much more appeal and will give many people their first taste of an all brett beer like this. Most of the time when people think of an all brett beer they think of funk, barn, dryness, and other things that are present in beers that have used brett in some portion of the fermentation or conditioning of a beer. This type of beer is not like that at all. When Trois is handled just like it's sacch yeast, it produces a beer that has almost none of the flavor traditionally associated with brett. Instead there is a flood of ripe tropical fruit flavors and aromas.

About the beer

I have done a number of all brett beers using the super tropical brux trois. This is probably my favorite beer I brew,  but I have never done one at 4% and I normally put little to no hops in the boil. For this one we went for a more traditional pale ale. The grain bill we used is from another non-brett 4% pale I have brewed The only change was made because of the low ABV and brett's inability to produce much if any glycol. We we added 10% rye malt to help with the perception of body. In my other brett pales I use white wheat which also really works well. Water was adjusted slightly to increase bitterness and we mashed at 157-8 to create our own dextrins.

For our brew day at the annex we followed the recipe very closely. The big difference was the use of 25% RO water, and no other mineral additions. A 45 minute mash instead of 60, and the use of BSI Brux Drie instead of the white labs Brux Trois.

The beer should be getting dry hopped right now and will be ready to be served at the annex in a week or two.

Here is a link to the original recipe

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Round NHC - 2014

This year I decided to enter the National Homebrew competition.  They implemented a random lottery to enter this year. You had to give them a few choices for judging location and a max number you wanted to enter. It was said you might not get exactly what you wanted. I ended up getting my first choice for location and the max numbers of entries that I requested, which was four. 

I am very happy to say that three of those four ended up taking a spot in the top three in their respective categories!

I sort of entered at the spur of the moment and had not planned out anything at all. I didn't really have much in the way of options of what to enter. It really was just what I had around at that particular time. Three of the beers were my most recently brewed, and one was brewed in 2010 (entered because I really did not have anything else).

#1 American Bastard - 8A English Standard Bitter – 2nd Place

Brewed with Tim Cantwell and Ryan Buxton

This is a really good 3.8% pale ale. Honestly this is more of an american style beer. It was fermented with conan yeast (said to be English), and uses some fruity american hops like mosaic and amarillo. Most of those were added towards the end of the boil. I entered it into English because I was a little worried about a small session beer like this competing against American pales that would have had higher OGs. Guess it worked!

#2 Tropic Thunder – 23A Specialty Beer – 3rd Place
This is a beer brewed in the style of an American Pale ale with two big differences. Of the 23 ounces of hops used in this 10 gallon batch only 6% were used in the boil, and those were @ 15 minutes. The other big difference is that it was fully fermented with brett brux trois. This was brewed right at the start of 2014. I thought this beer was amazing when it was young, but still really good at it's current age. The fruitiness from the brett early on has started to be replaced by some nice funkiness. A version of this beer has been brewed a number of times now. Here is a link to the first one I made.

#3 Behemothic – 26B Other Mead (Braggot) – 2nd Place

This is a massive 15% abv braggot I brewed back in 2010. It is very experimental and was brewed to have some similarities to a gruit. It was brewed with chamomile and meadowsweet and fermented with an old ale blend of sacch and brett. This has given it a slight tartness which I think helps with the very sweet nature of this brew. Here is my original post on this brew.

#4 High Seas – 22C – Wood aged Beer – Did not place  Brewed with Tim Cantwell

This was one I was unsure of entering. It is a blend of beers with the main one being a baltic porter that had just finished aging in a 1st use rum barrel. At that time it was really hot with rum so I blended in a little bit of a imperial coconut brown ale. The crazy thing is that now that rum baltic has mellowed it might be one of the best beers I have ever had. Seriously! I guess it was still pretty rum forward when it was judged.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hair of the... IPA (Blue Dot inspired IPA)

This past weekend we did a second brew of a pilsner based IPA. It is very loosely based on Blue Dot from Hair Of The Dog. This is by no means a clone attempt. However the grain bill should be very close to Blue Dot. Blue Dot grain bill is just pilsner and flaked rye. For our version we replace a little of the flaked rye with some chocolate rye. I like the beer with a little more color.

We also went for a full 20 gallon batch. The boil kettle was ridiculously full. It was quite an effort the first 30 minutes to make sure it didn't boil over.

Here is our 20 gallon recipe

I am hoping to bring at least 5 gallons of this beer up to the Mountain brewers festival in Idaho Falls this June. My home brew club has registered for a booth. We will be serving our beers right alongside all of the commercial brewers!

Monday, March 17, 2014

El Jefe - India Dark Ale

I wanted to do something with all the Conan yeast sitting at the bottom of my fermenter. It seemed like such a waste to dump it. I first looked at attempting a Heady Topper clone. After looking at the thread on this subject on HBT, I decided to pass. That thread is over 200 pages and is a bit crazy if you ask me.

Instead I pulled out Mitch Steele's IPA book for something. While Heady Topper is not in this book, there is another recipe in that book from Alchemist.  El Jefe is a curious brew that I was drawn to when I first got the book, but never got around to brewing. It is not a Standard IPA, but it is not a Black IPA either. Kimmich instead calls this a dark India ale as the SRM comes in around 17. Besides the Conan yeast I was also drawn to the recipe because it is hopped entirely with simcoe, and it is a dead simple recipe.

While many brewers are adding a malt derived coloring agent in styles like black IPAs, it seems Kimmich just went for what tasted right, and left out the Sinamar coloring because in the end the beer doesn't have to be black. Again I like the simplicity of it all.

The brew day went off exceptionally well other than a slightly higher OG than I was shooting for.

Here is the recipe I used to brew this beer:

Monday, March 3, 2014

February = Big beers and Small beers

The brew labs have been very busy the past two weeks!

This past weekend was all about big beers and barrels. On Sunday we brewed up an imperial style american brown ale.  It was my third beer using giga yeast, and I just have to say that I have been pretty impressed with it so far. When I make a starter in my 2000ml flask it wants to escape. So the bad part is I probably should buy a bigger flask. The good part is I get a ton of yeast. I swear it is like i'm pitching three packs of white labs or wyeast into my starter. My fermenter had airlock activity only two hours after pitching! Sundays American brown will eventually go into our 10 gallon rum barrel.

After the brew day was done we worked on moving around some other previously brewed beer. We have had a Baltic Porter sitting in the barrel about 4 weeks. Due to the logistics on getting another beer into the barrel, we ended up leaving the baltic in the barrel for much longer than planned. We even figured the beer might be a lost cause. However a quick tasting showed promise. Yes the rum was pretty big, but not as overpowering as we thought. We emptied the barrel in to two corny kegs that each had about 1 gallon of the un-barrel aged Baltic. The quick taste after blending was fantastic!

As soon as we had the barrel emptied we filled it back up with an imperial coconut brown ale. I am hoping the coconut flavor survives the rum. Being this is the second fill of the barrel, I think that it will still show up. Lastly we had a about 1.5 gallons of the barrel aged baltic and a half gallon of the coconut left over so we blended those and added them to a small 2 gallon keg.

The previous weekend we spent the entire day, 9 hours, working on some small beers that we brewed for a collaboration my brew club is doing with Epic Brewing. Since we have a pretty big club we split it into a number of groups. Each group will get to submit one beer to be tasted by Epic. They will then choose one to brew at their new gastropub, The Annex. Due to Utah law these beers have to be 4% ABV or less.

My group ended up brewing a shit load of beer. Here is what came out of the extra long brew day, all 5 gallon batches:

1) Pale Ale - Citra/Amarillo +Citra hopback. Fermented with Brux Trois
2) Pale Ale - Calypso/Summit +30 minute hop stand. Fermented with Brux Trois
3) White IPA - Fermented with Wit yeast
4) White IPA - Fermented with Brux Trois
5) Wit - Lime/Coconut
6) Wit - Lavender/Rose hips
7) Wit - Lemongrass/Crystalized Ginger

The fermentation of these beers is done and we will be doing some additional additions for some of them. Stay tuned for more updates on these beers.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Zuur Tafelbier - Hybrid turbid mash & souring with acidulated malt

Tafelbier or Table Beer is the term used for Belgian and Dutch beers that have an ABV between 1-4%. As the name implies, these are traditionally consumed at mealtime by the whole family. Yes, even the kiddies get to drink it.

One of the main features of these table beers is that the mouth feel is higher than one might anticipate, usually because of unfermented sugars/malt sugars. Traditional versions do not use artificial sweeteners nor are they excessively sweet. More modern versions of this beer incorporate sweeteners such as sugar and saccharine added post fermentation to sweeten the palate and add to a perception of smoothness. A mild malt character can be evident. Aroma/flavor hops are most commonly used to employ a flavor balance that is only low in bitterness. 

One of the methods used traditionally to make Tafelbier is whats called a turbid mash. It is also common for Lambics. This is a fairly complicated process. If you want details on the the full mash schedule check out this page: http://bergsman.org/jeremy/lambic/making.html

Not only was I interested in making a Tafelbier, but I wanted to incorporate some sourness into it. Essentially a petite sour beer. One great thing about a Tafelbier is the quick turnaround. Souring with Lactobacillus would have really slowed the turn around down. So I decided to try to use Acidulated malt to get a nice tartness.  In an effort not to impact the mash PH too greatly I held out the acid malt until late in the mash. The acid malt made up around 25% of the malt bill. This malt was added to the mash 30 minutes into the saccharification rest. I continued the sacch rest for another 25 minutes after the acid malt was added.

Back to the turbid mash. This is normally done using infusions to raise the temp. It begins with a very thick mash. It is similar in a way to a decoction. The difference with decoction is your mainly pulling your grist out of the mash and boiling it. With a turbid mash you are looking to pull liquid only.

The idea behind using the technique today is that you pull a % of wort before the enzymes have been activated. Then quickly heat this portion to around 180 degrees to denature it, or destroy the enzymes. Then at some later point in the process this denatured wort is added back into the mash. For lambics and other wild ales this provides long term food for the brett and other bacteria since saach yeast cannot consume these large complex sugars. In the production of table beers, this process can help too add to sweetness, mouthfeel, and body.

For this beer I was interested in doing a turbid mash. However I did not want to follow the Cantillion process step by step. This is an experimental beer and I was trying to just come up with a hybrid method to hit the main point of the turbid mash which is to keep additional unfermentables in the wort.

Once I finished the boil and chilled the wort I separated it into two fermenters. In one I pitched GigaYeast GY048 - Golden Pear Belgian. In the other I pitched White Labs WLP670 - American Farmhouse blend. The blend also contains some brett. I plan on bottling some of this one for a longer term aging to see if I can get some additional funkiness from the brett and the turbid mash.

The Hybrid Turbid Mash
The 3 quarts I removed from the mash and added  to the kettle 

To start I mashed in 11 pounds of grain with 7 gallons of water. I recirculated for around 5 minutes and pulled off 3 quarts of wort. At this point the mash was thick. I moved the 3 qrts into my boil kettle where I quickly raised the temps to over 180 degrees. I kept this mash liquid in my kettle until I was ready to mash out. I just kept an eye on this and never let it boil.

At the same time I was heating the pulled wort I continued with my main mash. Here are the steps to with the main mash:

1) 20 mins @ 122
2) Raised to 157 over about 15 minutes
3) 30 Mins @ 157
4) Slowly added 4# acid malt over 10 mins
5) 20 Mins @ 157
6) Added the 3 quarts back into main wort for mash out
7)  Raised temp to 168 for 10 mins (mash out)
8) Drained to kettle
9)  Added 11.5 gallons of sparge water.  Recirculated for 15 mins
10) Drained to kettle
11) Collected 15.25 gallons of wort

Zuur Tafelbier                                                         
Belgian Table beer
Type: All GrainDate: 02/02/2014
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 galBrewer: Michael
Boil Size: 15.48 gal
Boil Time: 90 minEquipment: 26 gallon- All Grain
End of Boil Volume 12.48 galBrewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 10.25 gal
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage

7 lbsPilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM)Grain146.7 %
4 lbsAcidulated malt (Add late in mash) (1.8 SRM)Grain226.7 %
2 lbs 8.0 ozCaravienne Malt (22.0 SRM)Grain316.7 %
1 lbsOats, Rolled (1.0 SRM)Grain46.7 %
8.0 ozAromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)Grain53.3 %
2.00 ozSaaz [3.75 %] - Boil 60.0 minHop614.3 IBUs
1.0 pkgAmerican Farmhouse Blend (White Labs #WLP670) [50.28 ml]Yeast7-
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.037 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.036 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.009 SGMeasured Final Gravity: ? SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 3.7 %Actual Alcohol by Vol: ? %
Bitterness: 14.3 IBUsCalories: 0.0 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 6.0 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Full BodyTotal Grain Weight: 15 lbs
Sparge Water: 11.5 gal

Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Protein RestAdd 7.00 gal of water at 130 F122.0 F20 min
SaccharificationHeat to 157.0 F over 15 min157.0 F60 min
Mash OutHeat to 168.0 F over 10 min168.0 F10 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 1 steps (11.5 gal) of 168.0 F water

Brew day Notes:
Mashed in at 131 w/ 7gallons
Dropped to 122
Recirculated 5-6 mins, drained 3 Qts of wort and added it to kettle (raised temp to 180)
Recirced for 20 mins @ 122
Raised temp to 157 over 15 minutes
Held temp at 157 for 30 mins
Added 2# acid malt recirc 5 mins
Added 2# acid malt recirc 20 mins
Added 3 qrts of wort back to main mash
Mash out @ 168 10 mins
Drained Tun, added 11.5 gallons from HLT
Recirc 15 mins at 168, drained
Collected 15.25 gallons of wort in Kettle.

Boiled for 90 mins
Added 2 oz Saaz hops @ 60 minutes
Chilled, filled two 5 gallon carboys.
Pitched American Farmhouse in one
Pitched Gigayeast Golden Pear in other
Early in protein rest

Rev Brew lab Brewery

Update 4/18 - Let's chalk this brew up as a good starting point, but needing some sweeping changes. The good: What an amazing full mouthfeel for such a small beer. The tartness was also pretty spot on for what I was hoping for. The Bad: I knew this would forever be cloudy, but it took quite awhile to not look like milk (ewww). The smell was so strong of yeast it was hard to handle.

The version with the gigyeast strain did not stick around long. After several weeks in the keg I tossed it out.

The farmhouse blend was much more promising. I so wanted to like it. It really was just the nose that was such a turn-off. I ended up dry hopping it with 2 oz of citra in the keg to try and mask it as much as possible. That helped a little, but I also just recently gave up on that version as well and dumped it. I was a little sad about it, especial after I dumped it and noticed that only about 10-15% of the hops I put into the keg made contact with the beer. Oops, I guess I need to get some marbles of something to weigh those down in the future.

I will try something like this again, but I will most likely cut back on the 'turbid' amount I remove from the protein rest.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Baltic Porter w/ multi step mash and cold steeped grains

I needed to brew a Porter for an upcoming brew club meeting. After researching the differences between stouts and porters, I settled on the idea of brewing a Baltic Porter because the differences to the other styles of Porters (and Stouts) stood out the most to me.

The main difference between a Baltic and other types of Porter is the fermentation. A Baltic traditionally uses a bottom fermenting lager yeast instead of an ale yeast.

Baltics are known for having a rich malty sweetness in both aroma and flavor. Other things I was looking for was a very smooth roast that stopped short of anything aggressive.

One technique I have been eager to try is withholding dark grains from the mash and boil. Instead these grains are cold steeped for 24 hours and added at some other point. I have seen some adding them to the fermenter, but I went with adding them in at flameout. By doing the cold steeping and withholding it from the boil, you increase the aroma of the malts, and lessen any of the acrid or burnt characters of the darkly roasted malts.

To 1.5 pounds of black and chocolate malts I added 3 quarts of water or 2 quarts of water per pound of grains.

I added the water and grain into a large jar about 24 hours before I brewed.

Just before I added them, I used 2 different size strainers to lauter the dark malts.

At flameout the strained liquid (2 quarts) was added to the kettle.

New Baltic Porter
Baltic Porter
Type: All GrainDate: 01/03/2014
Batch Size (fermenter): 13.50 galBrewer:
Boil Size: 18.08 galAsst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 minEquipment: 26 gallon- All Grain
End of Boil Volume 15.08 galBrewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 12.75 galEst Mash Efficiency 85.9 %
Fermentation: Ale, Two StageTaste Rating(out of 50): 30.0
Taste Notes:
10 lbsPilsner (Franco-Belges) (1.7 SRM)Grain134.5 %
6 lbsMunich Malt (9.0 SRM)Grain220.7 %
6 lbsVienna Malt  (3.0 SRM)Grain320.7 %
3 lbsBrown Malt (Crisp) (65.0 SRM)Grain410.3 %
2 lbsRye, Flaked (Briess) (4.6 SRM)Grain56.9 %
8.0 ozSpecial B Malt (180.0 SRM)Grain61.7 %
2.00 ozPerle [7.50 %] - Boil 60.0 minHop719.9 IBUs
2.00 ozWillamette [4.75 %] - Boil 15.0 minHop86.3 IBUs
4.0 pkgSafLager West European Lager (DCL/Fermentis #S-23) [23.66 ml]Yeast9-
1 lbsChocolate Malt (Castle) cold steep, add end of boil (430.0 SRM)Grain103.4 %
8.0 ozBlack Malt - cold steep, add end of boil (500.0 SRM)Grain111.7 %
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.063 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.062
Est Final Gravity: 1.012 SGMeasured Final Gravity: ?
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.6 %Actual Alcohol by Vol: ?
Bitterness: 26.2 IBUsCalories: ?
Est Color: 28.4 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Medium BodyTotal Grain Weight: 29 lbs
Sparge Water: 12.79 galGrain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 FTun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSEMash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Protein RestAdd 10.09 gal of water at 128.2 F122.0 F20 min
Beta Sacch'Add -0.00 gal of water at 149.0 F149.0 F30 min
Alpha Sacch restAdd -0.00 gal of water and heat to 158.0 F over 10 min158.0 F30 min
Mash OutHeat to 168.0 F over 10 min168.0 F10 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 2 steps (Drain mash tun, , 12.79gal) of 168.0 F water

Update 2/6/14: It has been about 3 weeks since this was brewed. The color came in a little lighter than I was hoping for but still in the SRM range of a Baltic.

Early tasting was promising. The aroma of the beer was fantastic. The next step with this beer is a  short aging in a freshly dumped 10 gallon rum barrel. On Feb 4th I filled up the barrel. I think the aging period will be very short on this one. I plan on taking a sample in the next day and make a decision on pulling it or leaving a little longer.

Porter Vs Stout... Fight!

I have been thinking a lot about Stouts and Porters lately. My brew club just held a style meeting on Stouts. We must have sampled around 20 of them. All the styles were covered and even included some odder variations like a Mole (Mexican Spiced Chocolate) and an Oyster Stout. They were all pretty good.

Our clubs next style meeting will be focused on Porters. For this reason I have been researching the two styles to try and discern the differences. Let me tell you, it's a mess! Where do I even start?

I guess the first thing I will mention is that originally the term Stout did not have anything to do with the color, flavor, or aroma of a beer. It just meant it was strong. So any beer could have been described as being stout. Of course that would change over time, but that is the origin of the word.

A common theme I came across in research is that many people think the main difference is roasted barley. Stouts use it, and porters do not. However lets debunk that one right away. It is just not the case, and it goes both ways. Roasted barley was not even introduced into brewing until the late 1800's. But even then it was not readily accepted into the mash tun. I came across one source that said Guinness did not start using roasted barley in their stout until 1930.

From Martyn Cornell: "At Whitbread, whose Chiswell Street premises, on the edge on the City of London proper (the "Square Mile"), was one of the top two or three London porter breweries, in 1805 the firm used 160 quarters of pale malt and 56 quarters of brown malt to make both its porter and single stout, and 136 quarters of pale together with 40 each of amber and brown malt to make its double stout. From these 216 quarters of malt it would make 798 barrels of porter (3.7 barrels to the quarter, around 6 per cent alcohol by volume), or 720 barrels of single stout (7 per cent abv or so) or 580 barrels of double stout (2.7 barrels to the quarter, around 8 per cent abc).

The brewery made it's porter and single stout with the same malt bill. It's double stout was made with additional amber malt. The resulting beer was 6%, 7%, or 8%. I am going to guess the yeast used for all was the same. Nothing is mentioned about hops, but I am sure they were all hopped similarly as well.  So really we are back where we started. The term is being used to describe the beers strength. At this point in time a very similarly produced beer is called a porter at 6% ABV and a Stout at 7% ABV.

After all of this I would have to say that the only difference between stouts and porters is whatever the brewer wants!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anatomy of an up-cycled Brew Stand

A couple of weeks ago I had a friend over for a brew session. He asked me some questions about my brew stand and about how much I have invested into it. I really had never added it up, but I figured it was much less than an off the shelf brew sculpture with similar specs.

There are a small number of commercially built brew stands out on the market. These come in various designs, but they are all pretty costly. They range from around $2,000 to $5,000. My favorite is probably Morebeers tippy dump system. In stainless with all the bells and whistles the price comes in at over $6,000 for the 20 gallon version.

I guess the main thing I would point out about my brew stand is that it is completely weldless. It is also pieced together out of a number of parts. The idea behind this post is to explain all of those parts, and try to put a price to them all.

The base of the entire stand is a heavy duty "Gorilla" rack from Costco. It was actually a gift, but I will list the price to include in the total. I use two shelfs, the bottom and top. For the third shelf I just run a single bar just below the level of the burners. It's maybe 7 holes up from the bottom of the rack. This is just to add some stability

The only real modification to the rack was a set of caster wheels I picked up for cheap at a local industrial surplus store.

For burners I used one Blichmann floor burner for the boil kettle. The burner and stand for both the HLT and MLT was originally a two burner cajun cooker cart. It was also found at a surplus store. The cart was actually two pieces. I basically discarded everything but the top section with the burners.

Here is what it looked like out of the box:

Everything else on the stand consists of gas piping, and 110v solenoids on the HLT and MLT. In addition there is a tankless water heater and three stage water filter bolted to the side of the rack.

Here is a good picture of the stand and the main components just discussed. The picture is a little old. At the time I was using a PID, and only the large boil kettle is still in use. In it you can see the blichmann and the remains of the cooking cart.

The burners are all hooked up to a single propane tank. The HLT and MLT also have standing pilots and needle valves to adjust the pilot size. Here is a close up look at this set up. You could forgo the main red valve since you have the normally closed solenoid, but I like it for a quick shut off ability.

My first attempt to add everything up I came in at just under $3,000 for everything except the computers (tablet, laptop) that I use to run the BCS since those things are not dedicated to the brewery. I also did not include my grain mill, fermenters, kegs, etc. It's just the items connected to the stand. This is not bad considering the size of the kettles and that it is completely digital.  It's half the price of Morebeers single tier digital 26 gallon set up.

Part Price
Heavy duty rack 150
Blichmann floor burner 150
two burner cajun cook stand 60
Solenoids 65
Gas piping, valvles 120
Hose, cam locks 100
Morebeer 26 gallon HLT, MLT,  Kettle, sparge arm 1300
March Nanobrewery pump 350
Plate chiller 80
BCS 460 180
Wiring, temp probes 100
Water filters, parts 85
Tankless water filter 200

Tankless Water heater
Pretty much my current setup.

UPDATE: Here are some close up pictures of my favorite brew gadget, the LPG tankless water heater.

Gas Connection to heater
Gas connection at heater
Flexible pipe connection