Thursday, 29 May 2014

Brew Day: Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse

Bringing wort to a boilToday I brewed a batch with one of the new strains from my last Yeast Bay shipment: Wallonian Farmhouse .  I decided not to include this in my first order because I wasn’t sure if I’d like the flavour profile: “funky” is one those generic descriptions that can mean different things to different people, but one thing I do know is that I often don’t enjoy the more phenolic flavours that some brett strains give off, especially if they’re anything more than a background note (barnyard, band-aids, medicine, smoke). However after reading this post at Ales of the Riverwards, along with some other positive write-ups on HBT, I decided to give it a go.

My first thought was to use it in one of my standard pale saison recipes, but I have a lot of them on the go at the moment, so I decided to try something a little different for my first batch.  I’ve been intrigued for a while by the recipe for Saison de Pipaix in Farmhouse Ales.  The grist---58% pilsner, 40% vienna, 2% amber---is pretty different from my usual saison base of 90% pilsner and 10% wheat, and Phil Markowski’s description makes the beer sound delicious:
“Decidedly rustic with woody, fruity, iron notes on top of a malty, dryish sour backdrop.  The flavour is peppery, fruity, and dry; refreshing and pleasantly funky.  A true farmhouse ale.”
I actually bought a bottle once, based on this write up, but it was completely flat and possibly oxidized, so it went down the drain.  I’ve been wary about picking up another after this experience, so once again this is an “inspired by” beer based more on description than acquaintance.

That said, I think this yeast should be well-suited here: perhaps not for making a clone beer, but certainly for making something that fits the beer I imagine.  The blurb on The Yeast Bay website makes it sound like the strain should hit all the right notes.  First, the Farmhouse Ales recipe mentions very high attenuation, at around 92%; the Yeast Bay description says that their yeast “exhibits absurdly high attenuation, resulting in a practically bone-dry beer”. Second, Ed Markowski described Pipaix as dryish sour and pleasantly funky; the Wallonian Farmhouse strain “imparts a slight earthy funk and tart character to the beer” and is “a very mild producer of some slightly spicy and mildly smokey flavor compounds”.
The write up at Ales of the Riverwards bolstered all of this. While I’m not planning on adding any of the spices that are listed in the original recipe, Ed Coffey said of his first beer that if he told me people he’d added spices, they’d believe him.  He also said that the yeast emphasized the pilsner malt, which should work nicely with the more flavourful vienna and amber malt in the mix as well.

I decided to exercise a bit of restraint with the hops to let the yeast shine through.  The original recipe lists Hallertauer, East Kent Goldings, and Styrian Goldings, but though I had all of these on hand, I threw some Willamette and Northern Brewer into the mix to emphasize the woodsy, earthy flavours.  I gave the wort a good 40 seconds of oxygen to encourage attenuation, then set it in my fermentation chamber at 70°F. I’ll probably pull it out after 24-36 hours and let it free rise to wherever it wants to go.

Update: Tasting Notes.

Estimated O.G. 1.052
Measured O.G. 1.049
Measured F.G.
149°F 90 minutes
58% Pilsner (Dingemans)
40% Vienna
2% Amber (Thomas Fawcett)
Northern Brewer 60 23.9 IBUs (16g @ 7.5%)
Styrian Goldings 20 3.5 IBUs (15g @ 3.5%)
Willamette 20 4.8 IBUs (15g @ 4.8%)
East Kent Goldings 1 2.0 IBUs (10g @ 5.9%)
Wilamette 1 1.6 IBUs (10g @ 4.8%)
Wallonian Farmhouse

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tasting Notes: Quarter Session Bitter

Here’s some quick tasting notes for the Ordinary Bitter I brewed a few weeks ago.  Its a lovely beer, one of the best bitters I’ve brewed I think.  I don’t know how much of that I can attribute to the water treatment, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  I finally ordered a pH meter, which should take some of the guessing out in future.

Quarter Session BitterAppearance: Reddish tint.  Hazy as expected (I forgot to add the whirlfloc).  Nice thinnish but lingering head with decent lacing.

Smell: Slight spiciness from hops, then nutty caramel notes from the crystal malt.  Some dark fruit as well. 

Taste: Slight sweetness and spice, followed by some subtle fruitiness with the malt.  Firm, lingering bitterness, but not too harsh.  Keeps bringing you back for gulp after gulp.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is spot on.  It would taste much better from a cask, but this is one of my best efforts for a ~3.5% bitter.  Not too thin, but doesn’t pretend to be a 5% beer either.

Drinkability & Notes:  Shame about the murkiness---it would have been a beautiful beer if it was bright---but still very happy with this one.  You have to let it warm up a bit before opening it, but if you do it reminds me of plenty of beers I’ve drank back home.  The bitterness from the WGV is a little brasher than you’d get from EKG (higher cohumulone perhaps?), but it works well here.  Very drinkable.  If I wasn’t so busy with work at the moment, these would have all gone by now.

[By the way, if Ordinary Bitter is your thing, Boak and Bailey put a great post up about Boddington’s today.]

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Brew Day: Table Beer II

Table Beer IIThis is a beer I brewed last weekend, before the grain from the group buy arrived.  Its another attempt at a table beer---a refreshing, low-alcohol beer for everyday consumption.  Since J and I both teach and/or study most days, we need to be fairly clear-headed, which means being careful about how many beers we have in a night (even with the low-alcohol beers I normally brew).  I’d like to come up with one or two recipes for table beers that we could always have on hand: one with American hops for J, and one with European varieties for me.  Table Beer I was an attempt at the first; this is an attempt at the second.

Its loosely inspired by Jester King’s Le Petit Prince, though based more on the description of the beer than any real familiarity with it.  I had a bottle a year or two ago, but I don’t remember anything much about it.  It would have been made before the brewery incorporated their house culture of wild yeasts and LAB into all their beers, so its possible that the current iteration of the beer tastes different anyway.  J brought me back a bottle of Noble King from Houston last time she visited, and the souring bacteria and brettanomyces from the house culture were very evident in the flavour profile (it had a lovely lemony tartness, but some of the other flavours were a little strange).

Anyway, this isn’t really an attempt at a clone, but the recipe probably ended up being pretty similar to the one for Le Petit Prince.  I’ve listened to the Brewing Network interview with Ron and Jeff quite a few times, and I also watched this video---in which Jeff discusses recipe formulations---right about the time I came up with the grist and hops (warning: the video cuts out at some key points).  As a result I think the recipe is very similar, if not identical, to the one they use.  I’m relying on the French Saison yeast (WY3711) to dry the beer out completely, but also to give some mouth-feel to the finished product with the glycerol it produces.  The beer will also get a large dry-hop of Saaz in a week or two (Jeff says they dry hop at about 1lb per barrel, which works out at around 40-50g for my batch size).  As usual, the beer is also doing double-duty as a large starter for some other projects I have planned with this yeast.

Update: Tasting Notes.


Measured O.G. 1.024
Measured F.G. 1.000
ABV. 3.0%
Mash: 149°F
84.7% Pilsner
13.2% Wheat Malt
2.0% Medium Crystal      
EKG 60 min 11.8 IBUs (10g@ 5.9%)
EKG 10 min 3.5 IBUs (15g@ 5.9%)
Saaz 10 min 1.2 IBUs (10g@2.9%)
EKG 0 min 0.0 IBUs (15g@5.9%)
Saaz 0 min 0.0 IBUs (10g@2.9%)
Saaz Dry Hop (40g@2.9%)
Wyeast French Saison (3711)


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

It’s here!

2 x 2 Row, 2 x Pilsner, 1/2 each of White Wheat, Pearl, Golden Promise, and Paul's Mild

Thanks to some very generous fellow home-brewers, I got my grain from the group buy this evening.  Between that and the new strains I picked up from The Yeast Bay, not to mention the new larger Bubbler carboys I got in a recent sale, I’m very excited to start brewing properly again.  Unfortunately work and school will keep me busy till the end of the month, but after that I can really get to work.

Wallonian Farmhouse, Saison Blend, Beersel Blend

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Update: The Yeast Bay Saison/Brett Blend

My second order from The Yeast Bay should arrive tomorrow, so this seemed like a good time to return to some of the beers I brewed with my first vial of the saison/brett blend.  I made three beers back to back with that first vial, repitching from one to the next.  The first was a spelt saison; the second a “traditional” saison; and the last, which I’ll get to later in this post, was what you might call a “new world” saison.  I’ll update the tasting notes on the others later this week, and before I get to the last one I’ll give some general impressions of the blend.

First, some numbers:


O.G. F.G. Apparent Attenuation
Spelt Saison 1.038 1.003 91.8%
Traditional Saison 1.044 1.004 90.5%
Nelson Saison 1.048 1.005 91.3%

As you can see, I’m getting around 90% attenuation every time.  Of course these are relatively low gravity beers, and designed to be dry: I did step mashes with all three beers, based on a program from Farmhouse Ales, and also gave the yeast plenty of oxygen.  What’s more, I expect the bottles I’m keeping to drop a few more points in the next few months as the brett goes to work.

Since all three beers were heavily hopped, there’s a lot going on with them, and at first I had a hard time discerning where the flavours came from.  But as I taste more beers brewed with the blend, I’m starting to notice what is common between them, particularly as the funk from the brett becomes more pronounced.  I think the description of the sacchromyces strain from the website is pretty much spot on: “a delightful ester profile of grapefruit and orange zest and…a long, dry and earthy finish”.  Its blended excellently with the earthy/floral/citrusy European-style hops I’ve used it with.

I think I’m beginning to be able to pick out at least some of the flavours from the brett too.  Of course, these beers are still pretty young, and I expect them to change considerably over the next few months.  But Nick from The Yeast Bay said he’d picked up some funk as early as 6 weeks into fermentation, and I think that fits with what I remember here.  The website describes it as “mild funk”, and I don’t know that I can do much better.  J described it as “salty”, and I can definitely see what she means: not minerals, but maybe brine or even, sometimes, urine/urinal cake (more on that below).  I think it works nicely with the earthy flavours from the hops and yeast in the first two saisons I brewed: the first hopped with Crystal and Sterling, and the second with Sterling and Hallertauer.  It was there in both from fairly early on, blended with the general earthiness, and has become more pronounced over the past month. 

Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least one of the strains of brettanomyces in this blend was in the Lochristi blend as well.  I recently bottled a grisette brewed with the Wyeast Ardennes strain (3522) and inoculated with Lochristi in secondary, and along with a lovely fruitiness it had the same “salty” funk . It will be interesting to see how all these beers develop over the next several months, especially as the hops start to fade and some of the other aromatics from the brett become more obvious.  I wonder if some of the fruitiness I’m attributing to the hops and sacchromyces isn’t actually coming from the brett.

I should also mention that I gave the last few drops of my vial to another home brewer who works in one of the labs at the university, and after some experimenting he thinks he’s managed to isolate the sacchromyces strain, which is pretty exciting.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to brew something with it soon, in which case I’ll make sure to compare the results to these beers.  I really like the saison strain, and it would be great to be able to repitch it without worrying about the brett cell count getting too high.

The last beer I brewed with the blend was inspired by Prairie Ales ‘Merica, partly by way of Ed Coffey’s post at Ales of the Riverwards.  The one time I tried the beer, I made a mental note to brew something similar, especially since I had a 4oz pack of Nelson from the 2012 harvest sitting in my freezer.  Ed’s post provided some of the requisite details about the beer, obtained from Prairie via Shawn at Meek Brewing (read their posts if you want a recipe).  I think I ended up using less hops than the original because I wanted to save some of the Nelson Sauvin for another beer, but even with that this is still one of the most heavily dry-hopped beers I’ve made.  (I actually stopped dry hopping completely quite soon after I started home-brewing because I kept getting grassy and vegetal flavours in my beers.  I’ve started doing it again recently, with good results, but I’m always a little worried about it.)

With the massive dry hop of Nelson Sauvin, it is definitely one of the most pungent beers I’ve made.  People always talk about grapes and gooseberries when it comes to this hop, but I also get a lot of earthiness and green onion (Chris Quinn from The Beer Temple seems to agree!), and they are both very prevalent here.  There’s also the same salty funk, which I’m attributing to the brett.  J loved it on her first sip, but when she was about halfway through the glass she said it occasionally felt like she was getting a whiff of urine from the beer, and as soon as she said it I knew what she meant.  Its not that anyone will take a sniff and think “Gross! Piss!”, but once you notice it it can be a bit distracting.  I went back to the other two saisons afterwards, and I can pick out the something like this smell in them, but its far less pronounced.  I don’t know if its the combination with the Nelson Sauvin that does it, or maybe the fact that this was the third beer I brewed from the original vial, which probably meant the brettanomyces cell count was a bit higher.

Anyway, its not by any means a bad beer: I gave a glass to a friend who has good taste but isn’t particularly geeky about the beer he drinks (i.e. he doesn’t sit there sniffing it!), and he really enjoyed it.  Like I said, its certainly pungent and aromatic, and makes a strong impression.  I tend to prefer the more restrained character of European hops: but I don’t think I’ll have much trouble getting through what’s left of this.

IMG_1773[1]Appearance: Hazy, pale gold colour.  Thick head on pouring, but dissipates to small cap. (Apologies for the terrible photo!  I need to start drinking beers while its still light out so I can get some decent pictures of them.)

Smell: Pungent!  Berries and grapes, but also earthy, green onion aromatics.  Slight funk: underneath it occasionally a faint whiff of urine!  You have to dig a bit, but it’s there.  Still a nice, complex nose though.

Taste: Slight sweetness up front---I think this is from the floor-malted pilsner I used with these beers, and its really nice, although any more would detract from the dryness of the beer.  Berries and white grapes next, along with green onions and “salty” funk.  Fades to a pretty nice bitterness, but a bit harsher then the other two saisons.  I think I can pick out the same profile from the sacch, but its buried beneath all those hops and I might be kidding myself.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation.  Works well with the beer: its not at all thin, despite the high attenuation and lack of adjuncts.  Bitterness lingers for a while

Drinkability & Notes: Overall I think this was a success. I don’t know if I like it enough to make another batch: after all, Nelson Sauvin are pretty expensive, and this recipe really does use a ton! Also, I don’t want to overstate the “urine” thing: its distracting once you start looking for it, but not at all obvious; most of the time its more of a mild funk.  Certainly not a complaint about the blend, which is still one of my favourites to date.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Quick Sour? Lacto and Brett Cherry Brown

IMG_1771[1]This is a post about an couple of experimental beers I brewed a few months before starting this blog.  I’ve made a number of berliner weisses with just lactobacillus and brett trois, and found that the combination works quite well, producing a tart and refreshing beer in a relatively short time frame.  After finishing fermentation on my last berliner weisse, I got to wondering if the same combination might work well to produce other “quick” sour beers. 

Chad Yakobson found that pre-souring wort with lactic acid increased attenuation with the strains he was using, so I thought that perhaps co-pitching lactobacillus with brett might have the same effect, as the LAB would initially out-compete the brett and produce plenty of lactic acid to lower the pH.  Based on this,  I was hoping for a dry and cleanly sour beer with at least some aromatic complexity, turned around in a month or two, and brewed in full knowledge that it might be quite one-dimensional.  It seems that some breweries manage to make interesting and complex sour beers with just lactobacillus (e.g. people speak very highly of Cascade Brewing), but even these breweries still age their beer in barrels for up to two years.  So one thing to stress at the outset here is that there are no shortcuts to great sour beers: the aim was to produce something tart and refreshing in a relatively short time frame.

For my first attempt, I took Jamil Zainisheff’s recipe for an English Southern Brown ale---a sweet, low gravity beer with lots of crystal malt---and pitched some of the yeast cake from an earlier berliner weisse into it.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking here: I knew that the brett would probably eat through all of the dextrins from the caramel malt, leaving a pretty thin beer, but for whatever reason I didn’t take any other steps to build in some body and mouthfeel.  Predictably enough, the final beer ended up very thin and one dimensional, lacking a lot of the flavours that come with the caramel malts.  Nevertheless I went ahead and put it in secondary with some canned sour cherries and American oak, and its still sitting there now.  My plan now is to blend it with another dark beer once I get grain from the group buy, one brewed to be dry but with a full mouthfeel: I’ll probably use Wyeast 3711, because it is highly attenuative but also likely to create a lot of glycerol, which should help the perception of thinness.

Anyway, learning my lesson from this first beer I came up with another recipe that was a little different.  This time I added around 9% Golden Naked Oats, to make sure the beer had some body.  I also used a pack of D90 Belgian Candi Syrup, hoping that the flavours might carry through even after all the sugar was fermented out (the crystal malts in the first attempt were not very present in the flavour of the final beer).

At around 3 months old, the result is about what I expected. Its a little one dimensional, and certainly wouldn’t bear comparison to a real Flanders Brown.  But it is very drinkable and refreshing, something that would go down quickly on a hot summer’s day.  In hindsight I wish I’d kept the gravity lower on this one, as I did with my first attempt, because at 5.9% its a little strong for how easy it is to drink (in fact, looking at my original recipe it would have been even stronger if I hadn’t had efficiency issues).  The oats gave it a bit more body, and the sugar, while subtle, is definitely there in the background.

I think there’s an important lesson here for people new to brewing sours: its really not that hard to brew a sour beer.  In fact, you can do it pretty quickly if you create the right environment and pitch the right organisms.  But that isn’t necessarily the only thing you want, and it certainly isn’t the only thing to look for as your beer matures.  These beers can get sour very quickly, but with that comes a very simple and straight-forward flavour profile.  Patience really is the only way to get something more interesting.

IMG_1763[1]Appearance: Reddish-brown in the glass, deep red when held up to the light.  Small head dissipates quickly.

Smell: Cherries most prominent, and hints of other dark fruits.

Taste: Sourness first: not puckering, but certainly more than tart.  Cherries again, and a suggestion of chocolate.  Some breadiness.  Bright and clean, not especially complex.

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation, which is what I was aiming for.  Slight slickness from the oats---definitely not thin.  Lingering tannic dryness along tongue and at back of throat from oak; builds as you make your way down the glass.

Drinkability & Notes:  I think this was a successful experiment, though not necessarily one I’d repeat.  Its a refreshing beer, and with the oak and the cherries, perhaps more complex than I’m giving it credit for.  I gave some to a friend who hadn’t drank many sour beers, and he seemed to really enjoy it. 

Measured O.G. 1.049    
Measured F.G. 1.004    
ABV. 5.9%    
Mash: 150°F    
47.3% 2 Row      
24.5% Vienna      
9.1% Golden Naked Oats      
3.3% Pale Chocolate      
1.8% Midnight Wheat      
13.9% D90 Candi Syrup      
Crystal 60 8.8 IBUs (10g @4.29%)
Brett Trois (WLP 644)      
4 cans sour cherries (secondary) 12g American Oak Cubes    

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Brew Day: Table Beer

Original GravitySummer’s on its way, and I’m running low on grain: what better time to make a low gravity table beer?  Most of my beers are low in alcohol by American standards---its hard to convince people here that for the kind of beers I’d drink in pubs back home, anything over 4% would be on the strong side---but beyond a few berliner weisses, I haven’t made many that have been lower than 3%.  In part that’s because I find that lower gravity beers don’t do so well with bottle-conditioning.  The Quarter Session bitter I made a few weeks ago is tasting pretty nice (tasting notes coming soon), and at 3.5% that’s usually about as low as I’d go for something that wasn’t going to end up highly carbonated.

I’m planning to make a couple of very low gravity saisons over the next few weeks, but this is something altogether different.  The guys at Basic Brewing made a bunch of session beers last summer, and one in particular caught my eye.  Its the second beer they brew in this video: a 1.018 wort made with 3:1 split of wheat and rye malt, hopped in the boil with Mosaic and dry-hopped with Cascade.  The thought is that the relatively high proportion of rye will give the beer some body, compensating for its low gravity and ensuring that the beer does not taste too watery.  It seems that they liked the results, so I figured I’d give it a try.

For my version, I upped the rye slightly to something like a 70/30 split.  I also switched the hops around, adding Cascade for a 30 minute whirlpool, and digging out an ounce of Mosaic from the back of the freezer for a dry-hop addition in a week or so.  I changed the yeast too: I thought this beer would be a good opportunity to test out The Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale strain again (I made a pretty tasty pale ale with it a month or so ago, very similar to this recipe).  Besides, as I’ve said before, these low gravity batches can do double duty as yeast starters when you’re growing your pitches up from slants, and I have a few other plans for this yeast.

I was aiming for a 1.024 starting gravity.  I’ve decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that that’s what I’ll do in all these table beers.  Even if it attenuates fully (as I expect some of the saisons to), this should still keeps me at or below 3%.  The wort came in at 1.025, which is just fine.  It certainly tasted thin though, there’s no getting round it.  We’ll see what the fermentation does for it.



Measured O.G. 1.025
Measured F.G.
Mash: 153°F
71.4% Wheat Malt
28.6% Rye Malt
Cascade FWH 12.6 IBUs (8g @ 7.2%)
Cascade Whirlpool (30 min) 15.8 IBUs (28g @ 7.2%)
Mosaic Dry Hop 0.4g/l  
Yeast Bay Vermont Ale


Monday, 5 May 2014

Farmhouse Ales III: Blending

Birra Del Borgo DuchessicTime for part three in the Farmhouse Ales series: this time about the technique of biere de coupage, or blending young beer with aged sours.

  This time I’ll just quote what De Baets says about it in full:

“Another technique used frequently in Belgium was the blending of beers. This technique appears to have been used with saisons although, according to Cartuyvels and Stammer, it was not widespread in Hainaut. A beer for storage---a saison, for example---would be brewed. Called "old beer," it would be matured for almost a year or longer (from seven months to two years, it appears). This extremely sour old beer was added to a young beer that had been brewed in March or April by a farmhouse brewery or even in summer by a regular brewery. The young beer was lightly hopped in order not to impart too much bitterness to the mixture and so that it wouldn't compete with the acidity brought by the old beer. On average the proportions were one-quarter young beer to three-quarters old beer but they could vary greatly from one brewery to another. Refermentation would take place after several days in the cask, giving the beer a harmonious taste and blending of aromas. The old beer improved the young one by giving it vinous qualities and refreshing tartness as well as protection against bacterial infections. The young beer contributed freshness and carbonation and eventually allowed for the lowering of the alcohol tax to the desired level if it was a weaker beer.”

I think this technique is beginning to experience a bit of a resurgence, and perhaps unsurprisingly Yvan’s research is often explicitly mentioned as an inspiration by contemporary brewers adopting this technique---the guys from Jester King mention him again in this Sunday Session interview, where they provide some good information about the ways the beers they make in this way(I’ll come back to that in a post about some of the ideas I have for home brews).    Some brewers use blends of their own beers, but many use lambic from traditional breweries like Cantillon (which can be found in the Duchessic pictured in this post, and was used in Saison de la Senne--- I think I read somewhere that Hill Farmstead also blended Cantillon lambic with one of their beers too).

Blending like this certainly won’t result in something with the complexity or sourness of a lambic, but based on the beers I’ve had that were made in this way, it does create a refreshing tartness and aromatic complexity that is very enjoyable.  Lambics are wonderful, but it can be hard to drink more than a few in a single sitting, whereas if I could afford it I would happily drink some of these blended saisons all night. 

I suppose one could think of the technique as a variation on mixed fermentation, or bottle-conditioning with brett---just another way of ensuring fermentation is done by the right cultures---but by blending two beers together you can combine flavours that might be harder to achieve in other ways.  The best beers I’ve had that were made in this way combine the flavours of a young hoppy beer with the vinous tartness of an aged sour.  In the quote above De Baets indicates that in the past hopping levels in the young beer would be relatively low, whereas many modern examples aim for a good bit of hop aroma and flavour, largely from late additions in the boil and dry hopping.  De Baets’ own Saison de la Senne seems to have fallen in this category, as does Jester King’s Das Wunderkind.  But in his essay De Baets also suggests that bitterness and sourness aren’t necessarily as antithetical as we sometimes suppose, and this technique might offer a good opportunity for combining them.  Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes’ √225 Saison is both bitter and sour, and one of the best beers I’ve had recently.  I’ve never tried Cuvee De Ranke, but I suspect it might be another good example.  In fact, the Birra Del Borgo Duchessic I drank while starting this post had some definite bitterness, blending with the minerally, earthy finish of the beer. 

As far as I can tell, most modern versions don’t use the kind of ratios De Baets mentions in his essay.  You can see in the quote above that he talks about blends of 3/4 old beer to 1/4 young beer, whereas most modern brewers seem to use inverse proportions: Birra Del Borgo use 20% aged beer, De Ranke use 30%, and the guys from Jester King say they use somewhere between 20% and 25%. 

The kind of blending involved in true geueze’s is a little hard to plan for on a home brew level, especially for someone like me who is mainly brewing 3 gallon batches.  The solera method offers a possible compromise, and I plan to get a few started when I can afford some larger fermenters, but part of the attraction of this method is that it doesn’t require large amounts of spare sour beer.  I have a golden sour that I’ll be bottling some time soon, and I plan to take off 2 litres to use in this way.  After that it will be a few more months before I have anything ready, but it occurred to me that one way to get the tartness and brett character would be to make something like a brett berliner-weisse, and then use this for blending.  That would add tartness, and the brett would make a contribution as the beer aged in the bottles.  Based on what I can gather from this interview with Chad Yakobson, it sounds like Crooked Stave’s Surette might be made in this way.  Hopefully I’ll be able to experiment a fair bit with this over the summer, and I’ll post my results when I do.  

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Tasting Notes: Belgian Dry Stout

I’m pretty busy with work and school at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to write some of the posts I had planned for this week.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to continue the Farmhouse Ales series this weekend with a post on blended beer.  In the meantime, though, I thought I’d post some quick tasting notes on the Belgian Dry Stout I brewed a while back.

A quick preview: the beer is OK---pretty tasty, in fact---but not quite what I was going for.  As I mentioned in the original post, it was inspired by De La Senne’s Stouterik, but as it stands its a very different beer.  For one thing, I’d be surprised if most people would pick up on the fact that this was brewed with a Belgian yeast, unless you told them.  I also think the creaminess from the flaked barley ends up suppressing some of the dark chocolate and roasted notes I wanted: they are there, but very subtle.

I’ll certainly be brewing this one again, but next time I think I’ll replace the barley with malted wheat, and perhaps add a dash of extra dark crystal or even some Special B.  I think such a beer would still fit the “Belgian Dry Stout” description: if anything, these changes bring it closer to something like Beamish rather than Guinness (see Michael Dawson’s `Beamishish’, featured in the most recent episode of Chop and Brew).

IMG_1752[1]Appearance: Looks black in glass, but more like reddish brown when held up to light.  Thin off-white head.  Moderate lacing.

Smell: Bready sweetness and some very light spice (could be from aroma hops or yeast).  Maybe some dark fruit, and very subtle roast notes, becoming more pronounced as it warms up.

Taste: Sweet at first, coating tongue, then more fruity with coffee-like roasted flavours, almost ashy, but very subtle; blending quickly into a nice bitterness in the mid to back palate.  Very slight tartness. 

Mouthfeel: Silky and full, especially for such a low gravity beer.  More than I would like in fact: I think it covers over some of the roast and chocolate notes, and makes the beer seem less dry.  This is one of the reasons I’m going to try wheat in place of flaked barley next time.

Drinkability & Notes: Like I said, a pretty nice beer, but not what I was going for.  I want more of the dark and chocolatey notes, and something drier and less silky.  I’m happy that it doesn’t scream “Belgian yeast!” at you, and I think I can push it further in the direction I wanted with a few modifications.