Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumn 2015 Blending: Bière de coupage and Leftovers

As I mentioned in my post about the pale sour blends, I deliberately set aside some of those beers in one and half gallon jugs to use for cutting saisons over the next few months.  I did the same with the sour red ale as well, only this time I had already brewed two beers to be cut with beer from the red solera.  This post is about the final blends I made during the sour red blending session.

Dark Saisons cut with Sour Red

I thought about calling these bieres de garde, but dark saison will do.  I brewed two separate beers with the yeast cake from the Autumnal Saison I made with my pack of Wyeast 3725.  The idea was to make some darker, maltier beers that might blend nicely with the leather and fruit character of the sour red.

The first was a basic spelt saison, supplemented with some Munich malt and a pouch of D-90 candi sugar.  Due to some issues with the cereal mash (I didn't crush the spelt finely enough), my efficiency took a dip, which meant that the beer didn't come out as strong as I'd predicted, starting at around 1.054.  The candi sugar gave the desired colour (both these beers looked quite beautiful, a deep rich brown), and after primary fermentation it tasted like a pleasant though one dimensional belgian beer.  It was still relatively young, but I didn't get much in the way of distinctive saison character from the yeast, although it did bring out the flavours from the malt-bill as I'd hoped.

The second beer was all malt, based roughly on one of the recipes for biere de garde in Phil Markowski's Farmhouse Ales.  The base was a blend of pilsner, Golden Promise, and Munich, rounded out with small amounts of Dark Crystal and Amber malt, and a touch of Midnight Wheat for colour.  This time I hit my planned gravity right on: 1.074.  After primary fermentation this beer also had a very nice malt character, so much so that I could have been quite happy to package it as it was.

Because I was getting tired by this point in the blending session, I neglected to take gravity readings for either base.  I had previously checked on the Candi Sugar beer, which was already around 1.006.  Wyeast 3725 seems to be pretty attenuative, so I hope that they were both already quite dry.  For blending, I simply siphoned around three litres out of each carboy, and replaced it with three litres from the Sour Red solera.  Easy.

Both beers fermented on Hungarian Oak cubes, and I transferred a few of these across into the secondary fermenters with them.  I'm going to let each blend sit for at least 3-4 months so that some secondary fermentation can take place.  If they seem sufficiently dry after that time, I'll package them and allow them to continue to develop in the bottle.

Odds and Sods blend

Since these beers started off as three gallon batches, after blending them I ended up with about six litres of dark saison.  Originally I was thinking of just dumping this, but on blending day I noticed that I had a little extra top-up beer for the solera: enough that I could perhaps pull a little more than I'd originally planned.  I also had about a litre of the ECY20 pale sour that I'd used to add acidity to the sour blends.  So at the last moment, I combined all of these in a three gallon carboy, topping it up with some more beer from the sour red solera.  I added a few Hungarian Oak cubes, and set it at the back of my closet.  I'm basically thinking of this beer as a freebie: if it turns out well, great, and if not, I'll dump it.

So that's the end of my Autumn 2015 blending.  I'll be brewing some pale saisons to blend with the leftover pale and red sour ale in the coming month.  Each solera was topped up with three gallons of fresh beer, and I'm hoping that they will start to mature more quickly as time goes by.  I'll check on them again in the Spring, and may even try another blending session then.  If they don't seem ready, I might still pull off three gallons from each into separate carboys, and top up the base again so that I'll have more beer available next Autumn.

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