Monday, 16 March 2015

Bières de Coupage: No Boil Sour and Hoppy Saisons

I've been neglecting this blog recently, largely as a result of some work-related deadlines and minor health issues, but also because I've been worrying about a possible infection in some of the clean beers I've brewed recently, which has been keeping my mind off other brewing-related matters entirely.  More on all of that in another post.  I'm feeling better about brewing today because two of my beers came first in their category at this year's Drunk Monk Challenge (again, more on that in another post), so I thought I'd combine tasting notes for a number of batches to make a single post on some bières de coupage, i.e. hoppy saisons cut with a small amount of sour beer before bottling.

There are tasting notes for three batches below.  All three were blended with varying amounts of my no-boil sour, either in a carboy a few weeks before bottling, or in the bottling-bucket itself just before packaging.  I've noted the ratios in each batch below: two were 1/2 gallon sour to 3 gallons of saison, and one was 1 gallon of sour to 4 gallons of saison.

Overall I'd say the beers came out quite well.  The base sour is not particularly complex, so at first it doesn't add much more than a fairly pronounced tartness to the beers.  With a few months in the bottle, the brettanomyces clausenii that fermented the sour becomes more apparent, and most of the bottles have developed a low-level funk as they've aged.  All three beers are drinkable and refreshing, though some are a little one-dimensional.  If I've learnt one thing from these three batches, its that I should be more aggressive with flavour and aroma hops, perhaps using some of the fruitier new world varieties along side the more floral and spicy hops I usually rely on.

Soon I'll have some tasting notes for saisons blended with aged sour beer, rather than this more simple berliner-weisse style sour.  This seems to add a lot more complexity to the beer, but also seems to require a longer period of bottle-conditioning to avoid diacetyl in the blended beer.  I also have another 3 gallons of no-boil sour ready to make another round of these beers for the summer.

Wallonian Farmhouse Yeast; Hallertau Blanc and Eldorado Hops

Appearance: Crystal clear (this bottle has been in the fridge a while).  The bottle gushed when I opened it, leaving a thick head on the beer, but this dissipated very quickly.

Smell: Nice, fruity aroma: lemon, slight grassiness, maybe some pineapple or other tropical fruits.  Subtle, vaguely musty funk underneath it.

Taste: Tart at first, some residual flavour from the hops: spicy, then more lemon and tropical fruit.  Balanced and drinkable.

Mouthfeel:  Carbonation is high at this point.  Very dry with a medium to thin body, making it easy to drink.

Drinkability & Notes: I love this beer: it was tasty from the start, and has aged gracefully.  It's the oldest of these beers, with the base saison originally brewed in July of last year.  In fact I think this might be my last bottle.  Its the only one that got an extended whirlpool with the flavour hops (Hallertau Blanc and Sterling), and it also got a light dry-hop with Eldorado.  Overall this made it my favourite of these beers: it had a lovely, fruity hoppiness backed by the tartness of the sour when it was younger, and it aged into a fairly refined beer, with a more subdued but pleasant fruitiness blending nicely with the light brett-derived funk.  For this beer, 1/2 gallon of sour was blended with 3 gallons of clean beer at bottling.  Earlier tasting notes for this beer here.

Wyeast 3726; Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon Hops

Appearance:  Same slightly hazy yellow colour.  Thick head again, but dissipates pretty quickly.

Smell: Subtle fruitiness.  I can just about pick out melon and some clementine-like citrus, but I'm probably looking for it.  Same slightly musty funk as the other two beers.  I really like this gentle note that brett c adds, it gives a little extra fruitiness and funky complexity without the more aggressive phenols you can get from other strains.

Taste: Tart but also a slight fruity sweetness.  I used some Pearl malt in this beer along with the usual pilsner, and I think it rounds out the base beer nicely (I've tried the same thing in some other saisons with Golden Promise).

Mouthfeel:  Dry, but could use higher carbonation.  Some slight bitterness along with the tartness.  I like the combination (which isn't too pronounced in this beer), but I know lots of people think it clashes.

Drinkability & Notes: Despite liberal flavour and aroma additions, along with a dry-hop, I don't feel like the hops really pop out in this beer.  There were some fruity notes, perhaps a bit of melon, but I was hoping for something a lot more assertive.  Another refreshing beer, easy-drinking but perhaps lacking in complexity.  Next time I'll try for higher carbonation, and use some more assertive dry hops.  For this beer, brettanomyces clausenii was pitched along with the saison yeast, and 1/2 gallon of sour was blended with 3 gallons of saison at bottling.  Details of the brew day for this beer here.

Rye Saison; Wyeast 3726; Bramling Cross and Saaz Special Hops

Appearance: Hazy, lemon yellow.  Head dissipates quickly to a very thing cap.

Smell:  Lemons, blackcurrants, straw, maybe some overripe banana, and light musty funk beneath it all.

Taste: Medium tart, lemons, followed by slight sweetness and spice from rye or hops.  Not tremendously complex, but pleasantly refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Dry, but could use higher carbonation to add crispness.  Slight astringency.

Drinkability & Notes: This is a scaled up version of Table Beer III.  It came out about how I expected, with some nice lemony notes and a gentle but definite tartness.  With a bit more carbonation this could be a great summer beer.  I might try to bring out a bit more fruitiness with some different hops, perhaps something like Motueka.  For this beer, 1 gallon of sour was blended with 4 gallons of clean beer in a carboy about a month before bottling.  Details on the brew day for this beer here.

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