Sunday, 15 February 2015

Brew Day: 1860 Truman Double Stout (#IHP2015)

I've been brewing historical British recipes on and off ever since I made the switch to all-grain.  Most recently I've been focusing on stock ales that underwent a secondary fermentation by brettanomyces, but in the past I've made quite a few AKs, milds, and bitters as well.  So when the Fuggled International Homebrew Project came around this year, I knew I had to take part.  (In fact, I think following the project last year was part of what prompted me to start writing this blog).

The recipe chosen this year was for a Double Stout brewed at the Truman brewery in 1860 (I think I voted for the Stock Ale, though I can't actually remember).  You can find the original in Ron Pattinson's book (its very slightly different from the one Al posted), and there are also recipes and brewing notes for various similar Truman beers in the Let's Brew series over on his blog (1, 2, 3).

Reading all of this can be pretty helpful in planning a brew day, but I didn't have time to go through it all until the mash was on this morning.  Since we're all using very different malts (e.g. the Maris Otter I used would not have been available in the 1860s, and the brown malt probably had a very different character), I don't really think of what I'm doing here as accurately recreating a historical beer, but even with the leeway that gives me there's still the question of how to translate the information we have about the original recipe to a homebrew scale.

For instance, many of these beers went through quite complicated mashing regimes that I have no intention of imitating in my kitchen, and that leaves open the question of what temperature I should aim for in the infusion mash to get close to the listed racking gravity.  The racking gravity for this beer was 1.025, so I knew I had to create a fairly dextrinous wort  In his book Ron lists an infusion mash at 164, and Al suggested the same in his version of the recipe.  I was nervous about mashing so high (I thought perhaps it wouldn't translate very well to the kind of full volume BIAB mash I do, because the enzymes might denature before the mash was complete), but in the end I still went for a pretty high mash temp of 160.  It turns out I didn't need to worry about my efficiency (see below), though if I'd had time to do a bit of research I would probably have gone with something lower.  Kristen England's suggested mash temps for Truman Stouts in the Let's Brew Wednesday series are all a lot lower, and he also warns that the proportions of brown malt in these beers tends to leave a dextrinous wort, which makes me worry that the fermentation will stall at a higher gravity.  To mitigate this I pitched plenty of healthy top-cropped yeast, and gave the wort a good dose of oxygen.

I basically followed the recipe as written, though I had to substitute a small amount of Roasted Barley for some of the Black Patent, and I formulated the recipe for a slightly higher O.G. to take into account the dip in efficiency I usually see on these higher gravity beers.  I used EKG all the way through (I don't think the IBU numbers mean much in these recipes, so I based my additions on the proportions listed in Ron's book), and pitched a good amount of recently top-cropped Wyeast 1318.  Ron lists the Whitbread strains in his book, but I don't think this matters all that much, and I'd rather stick with the yeast I'm using anyway than go through the effort of growing up a fresh pitch.

The one other interesting process-related change I implemented was in my water profile.  The Truman brewery was located in East London, right on Brick Lane in fact, so I figured I see if I could find a water profile for the London Porter brewers.  Luckily Martin Brungard wrote a series of pieces on historical water profiles for Zymurgy last year, and the May/June issue has an article on London.  I won't go through all the information Brungard offers about the various possible water sources (read the article!), but the final water profile he lists for brewing dark beers is below:

Calcium: 80   Magnesium: 20   Sodium: 110   Sulfate: 80   Chloride: 190   Bicarbonate: 210   Residual Alkalinity: 105
As you can see, it has very high levels of sodium and chloride, much higher than you usually see in recommended water profiles, which will create a perception of sweetness and fullness in the beer (here hopefully balancing out all those hops!).    Brungard comments that based on research he did for John Palmer's water book, the sodium levels in this profile shouldn't be excessive, so the beer shouldn't taste salty.  I went with the following profile, aiming for a mash pH of 5.4:

Calcium: 65   Magnesium: 12   Sodium: 111   Sulfate: 78   Chloride: 193   
I'll be curious to see how the final beer turns out, though since I don't brew many strong dark beers I doubt its a profile I'll be using much.

As you can see from the photo at the start of this post, somehow the wort came in 10 points above the recipe's O.G.  I was already aiming a few points higher, because my efficiency usually takes a big dip in these high gravity beers, but it came in even higher than that.  I can think of two things that might have contributed to this.  First, I used a higher setting on my drill when crushing the grist, which might have led to a finer crush.  And second, after draining the bag with the mash over the kettle I let it drain further suspended over a bucket, and then added these runnings back to the kettle.  I don't usually bother with this, but I was worried about my gravity coming in low.  10 points is enough of a difference that I decided to dilute the final wort down to something closer to the recipe's gravity.  On the plus side, this means I might have a few extra litres that I can inoculate with some brettanomyces and keep on hand to marry with another stock ale.

Anyway, that's about it for the brew day.  Al lists his writing date as March 23rd: I don't know if that means tasting notes, but I doubt I'll have this bottled by then (I have a very hectic month coming up, and at six weeks the beer would probably be a bit young anyway).  I am planning on packaging this on the younger side and allowing it to condition in the bottle after that.  I'll post tasting notes when I think its ready for some.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Tasting Notes: Bitter Saison

Or rather, not-so-bitter belgian pale ale.  This is the beer I brewed with yeast grown up from a bottle of De La Senne Taras Boulba.  I was going for something similar to the original beer---pale, bitter, and hoppy---and also trying to get a sense of how their yeast strain performed.  Its a pleasant enough beer (J really likes it), but not what I was going for.  It has a nice gentle bitterness and noticeable hop character, but is a pale imitation of the characterful qualities of beers like Taras Boulba or XX Bitter.

The De La Senne yeast did reasonably well.  At first the beer had lots of sulphurous off flavours, but these have dissipated over time.  It didn't attenuate as much as I expected, ending at around 1.010, and I was also surprised that it didn't seem to be a good top-cropper (though now I think about it I've no reason to think that DLS do this).  I wish my brewing schedule had allowed me to brew several beers with this pitch, as I suspect I'd need to let it go through several generations before it would really come into its own (as far as I know, De La Senne have been repitching it since they opened Looks like I was wrong about that, but they do repitch through up to 30 generations).  I have some of the yeast cake stored in the fridge, and I may try growing it up in a month or so after I finish my current cycle of beers.

Appearance: Pale yellow colour with a slight haze.  From memory, I'd say its pretty close to Taras Boulba.  Tight head with fairly good retention and some lacing down the glass.

Smell: Grassy and floral, with a gentle pepperiness (white pepper); sweet and bready pilsner malt beneath it.  A bit like De Ranke XX Bitter if it was dialed down significantly.  Slightly plasticy aroma in the background as it warms that I don't like.

Taste: Herbal and peppery at first (but again, white pepper, not like the phenolic character I dislike in strains lime 3711); then slightly sweet and crackery malt before a dry and gently bitter finish.  Reconizable DLS yeast character.

Mouthfeel:  The mouthfeel is a little thin: surprising considering it finished higher than most of my saisons do.  Higher carbonation might help here, but I think if I brewed this again I'd also use more wheat.

Drinkability & Notes:  This batch didn't turn out how I wanted, but we're getting through it pretty quickly.  I was considering entering it in a competition as a Belgian Pale Ale, but I don't really know what judges expect from that style, and since J likes it so much I don't think I'll waste the bottles.  As I said, it does make me want to experiment more with this yeast strain, perhaps in combination with some fresher and more citrusy hops.

Monday, 2 February 2015

First Pull: Roeselare Pale Solera

Just a quick update post today.  Over the past few months I've been slowly increasing the number of six gallon soleras I have on the go, the idea being to eventually have a range of different beers on hand for coupage and blending.  To keep track of things I've decided to name each pale solera after the bug blend it was fermented with.  I currently have three in my closet---Roeselare, ECY01, ECY20---and I'm thinking of adding a fourth with The Yeast Bay's Mélange blend some time in the next month or so.  At the moment each has a slightly different base recipe, but I might start using the same base for each in future.

Last week I took the first 3 gallon pull from my Roeselare Pale Solera, and topped it up again with some freshly fermented beer.  The original solera was a mix of a Flanders Pale Ale fermented with Roeselare blend on October 11th 2013, to which I added another pale beer fermented with Wyeast 3522 on June 24th 2014.  That made the average age of the beer I pulled about 11 months.  The top-up beer I added last week was a slightly lower gravity version of the original recipe, fermented with Wyeast 1318 instead of a Belgian strain.  It had a gravity of about 1.012 when I added it to the carboy.

The beer I pulled still had a fairly high gravity of around 1.006, and was only moderately sour, with a pH of 3.96.  It had a very nice mix of citrus and stone fruit flavours, with only a little funk in the background.  I added a little over a gallon to a four gallon version of this buckwheat saison (recipe was slightly different because I ran out buckwheat), and I'm planning on letting them ferment together for another month or two before adding dry hops and packaging in bottles.  The base saison already has a nice fruitiness which I think will be complemented by the flavours from the aged beer.  Its also already fairly tart, so I'm glad that the solera beer isn't too sour yet.

I also transferred another 2 gallons into smaller jugs for extended ageing, flushing each with CO2 before transfer to minimise oxygen pick up (since I don't have kegs, I use a handheld CO2 charger).  The plan is to use some for cutting other saisons in the next few months, and to draw on the rest as a component in blended beers when I start pulling from the other soleras later this year.  I'll be brewing a 3 gallon top up for my Flanders Red solera in the next few weeks, and allowing the beer I pull from it to age further in a smaller carboy.  Hopefully I should be able to start creating blends from them all at the start of the Autumn this year.