Pints for Prostates

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Brettanomyces Fermentation Photos

Like some craft beer aficionados, I have been interested in sour beers. They are beers that are fermented with wild yeasts such as Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces. Several beer styles that use such yeast, like the Lambic beers, were developed in Belgium. Today, the US is seeing a growing interest in such beers and the old-fashioned fermenting processes. 

I continually see beer news stories with images of used whiskey and wine barrels being filled with beer or stacked and lining the walls of concrete cellars. In most cases, the beer is getting the souring and aging treatment. Here are some articles from well-known new sources regarding the interest in sour beers:

The Wall Street Journal - The Sour and the Glory
The New York Times - Brews as Complex as Wine
The New York Times - Sour Beer is Risky Business, Starting with the Name
The New York Times - Brettanomyces, a Funky Yeast, Makes Flavorful Beers *

The Brettanomyces yeast strains are a new frontier for brewers . Brettanomyces is capable of bringing many different flavors to beer, but the knowledge base for this yeast is still young and growing. Chad Yacobsen at Crooked Stave is at the forefront of this exploration with his Brettanomyces Project. It’s an exciting time.

Just after transfer to 5 gallon glass carboy. The foam is StarSan Sanitizer ("Don't fear the foam")


Just after pitching yeast.

A couple days later. Weird, aah? A pellicle forms to protect the beer from oxygen.

From above.

Like an alien landscape.

The domes get bigger.

The pellicle thickens.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kingmaker Saison

I named this beer “Kingmaker” after the song of the same name by Big Big Train on their album Far Skies, Deep Time. I was listening to the album on brew day and I liked the name.

The plan for this beer is to use the Wyeast French Saison yeast for the primary fermentation, transfer the beer to a secondary glass carboy and pitch Brettanomyces B. The beer will be in secondary for four to six months. Currently, the beer is a month into secondary fermentation and I’ll make another post about the Brett B fermentation.  
3711 French Saison Yeeast
Brew Name: Kingmaker Saison
Brew Date: 2012-11-21
Batch Number: B12

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (gal): 5.5
Total Grain (lbs): 13.75
OG: 1.062
Wort Boil Time: 90 min.
Rolling Boil

11.5 lbs Pilsner
1.5 lbs Flaked Oats
.75 Crystal 60
US Hops - Palisades, Chinook, US Saaz
.5 oz Palisades @ 60 min
.5 oz Palisades @ 20 min
1 oz Chinook @ 15 min
1 oz US Saaz @ 10 min

5 ml Lactic Acid
4 grams Epsom Salt
2 grams Calcium Chloride
2 grams Baking Soda
1/2 tab Whirlfloc @ 15 min
1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min

3711 French Saison (in primary)
WLP650 Brettanomyces Brux (in secondary)
Hoppy Kreusan
Mash Schedule
Sacch rest 60 min @ 149 F
15 min @ 149
15 min @ 160
Carboy and Blow Off Tube
- Inspired by "Saison of Zen," page 26 of Zymurgy, vol 35, no 6, Nov/Dec 2012.
- Would have liked another gallon of starter wort
- To secondary on 2012-12-09 with Brett B.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Session IPA Recipe

The following is the recipe I used for my Session IPA.

Brew Name: Session IPA #1
Brew Date: 2012-10-14
Batch Number: B11

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (gal): 5.5
Total Grain (lbs): 9.30
OG: 1.026 (!!)
Wort Boil Time: 60 min.

4 lbs Maris Otter
4 lbs Canadian 2-Row
1.09 Victory Malt
1 lb Rye Malt
.30 lb CaraPils

.25 oz Columbus @ 60 min
.5 oz Galaxy @ 20 min
1 oz Palisades @ 15 min
.5 oz Columbus @ 10 min
.5 Galaxy @ 5 min
1 oz Galaxy @ 0 min
.25 Columbus @ 0 min

5 ml Lactic Acid
2 grams Epsom Salt
2 grams Calcium Chloride
2 grams Baking Soda
1/2 tab Whirlfloc ?
1/2 tsp yeast nutrient ?

WLP023 Burton Ale
2 liter starter w/ 200g DME

Mash Schedule
Sacch rest 60 min @ 156 F
No Sparge (!!)

- Not sure if I added whirlfoc and yeast nutrient.
- Brew day music: Big Big Train - English Eccentric Part 1, Yes - Drama, Fly From Here
- Critical error of no-sparge caused the beer to be under-attenuated and very bitter. I think the recipe is viable, but full sparges and maximum fermentables are needed.
- See the Session IPA Debacle post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Session IPA Debacle

India Pale Ale is my favorite style; that’s what I drink the most. I like a beer with lots of citrus and pine resin hop flavor. A beer with 70 IBUs doesn’t daunt me. Understandably, that is the beer style I like to brew the most. A five gallon Cornelius keg of a tasty IPA is sure to be emptied.

The BJCP style guide has an ABV of 5.5 to 7.5% for IPAs. That doesn’t stop people from making more session-able IPAs (or hoppy blond ales) that have less alcohol, but good flavor. Founders All Day IPA is an example of a session ale with 4.7% ABV. Lagunitas DayTime is another, with an ABV of 4.65%.

This fall I brewed a session IPA. Unfortunately, the beer did not come out well. I created the recipe, but I don’t think the recipe is bad. I think the problem derives from one process decision I made that proved to be a critical mistake.

I had read somewhere that one way to bring down the amount of fermentables in the wort (and therefore get lower gravity) is to just take your first runnings and then add water to get to your pre-boil volume, as opposed to couple batch sparges. That sounded easy and it was sure to cut at least a half hour off my brew day. I didn’t realize the house of cards I was playing with.

After the fact, I can see that this chosen method had a few consequences:
  • The straight water that was added did not get treated with the same water additions (Epsom salts, Calcium Chloride, etc.) as the mash water. That means that my water chemistry and ph was off. The yeast probably wasn’t happy about that.
  • Because I only used the first runnings, the gravity was low; lower than the calculations in my BeerSmith software. To make matters worse, I added about a gallon more water than I needed, which made the gravity even lower. The low gravity meant that the yeast did not have as much fermentables to grow on. Again, the yeast was not happy. The carboy had extra yeast residue on the inside walls of the carboy and on the surface of the beer.
  • The hops that I added were based on a recipe with a certain grain bill and gravity. The lower gravity meant that there were too many IBUs (bitterness) for the resulting beer.
The beer ended up cloudy, yeasty, and bitter. Undrinkable. I tried it each week, and it improved slightly, but not good enough.

It’s a bummer that the beer went bad. But, I can say that I learned something from the experience. I might wait for the sting to wear off some before I try to brew that recipe again.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ezra Saison Results

...I haven't posted in awhile. I've been brewing, but I haven't taken the time to post on this blog. In my defense, it was a busy and eventful autumn for me and my family. In this post and the next I will do a little "catch up" and share what has been happening, brew-wise.
Ezra Saison Color and Clarity
My last post was about the brew day for the Ezra Saison. That was beer #10 (B10) and I brewed it at the end of August (2012-08-27). As for the results, I consider it one of my best beers so far. I did not document any tasting notes, but I can say that it fit the BJCP guidelines for the Saison style. It was perhaps a bit on the hoppy side of the style. I enjoyed drinking the whole five gallons over several weeks.

For me birthday, Kim took me out to a nice restaurant in the area and I ordered a bottle of Ommegang's Farmhouse Saison, Hennepin. I took one taste and said, "wow, my beer tastes like this." Well, my beer wasn't that good, but it was in the ballpark. Validating experience.

As you can see in the photo above, the gelatin fining I added to the keg helped to clarify the beer. The longer the beer sat in the keg, the more clear it got and the better it tasted.

I wish I had bottled a sample of this beer. The beer improved over time. I have since bought some oxygen absorbing bottle caps so that I can bottle a six pack sample of each future brew. I'll be able to open one bottle and decide whether or not to send the beer to a competition.

Plan to post about my Session IPA experience soon.   : )

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ezra Saison

To conclude the summer of Belgian beers, I brewed a Saison on 2012-08-27. I used Jamil Zainesheff's Raison D'Saison recipe in his Brewing Classic Styles book. My recipe deviated some. I added fresh lemon thyme from our garden, chamomile flowers, and crushed coriander. My hop additions deviated some too.

The beer is named after our new French Bulldog/Pug ("Fug") puppy, Ezra. Hopefully the beer will be good enough to represent such a cute puppy. If not, I'll name some other beer after him. He's my new brew buddy. He's already very fascinated about the beer ingredients and brewing process (when he's not napping). You can see in the photo below that he wanted to eat help me design a beer. 
Ezra wants to design a beer recipe (I think)
I want to use a new format for describing my brew day data. It's loosely based on the format used on the Mad Fermentationist blog.

Ezra Saison

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (gal): 5.5
Total Grain (lbs): 11.76
OG: 1.052
Wort Boil Time: 90 min.

2 liter starter

10.5 lbs Pilsner malt
.51 lb wheat malt
.75 lb Munich malt
67 g Caramunich

1.0 oz Hellertau (3.8 AA) @ 90 min
1.0 oz Hellertau @ 42 min
1.0 oz Hellertau @ 0 min

1 g lemon thyme @ 5 min
5 g chamomile flowers @ 5min
11 g crushed coriander @ 5 min

1/2 tab Whirlfloc
1/2 tsp yeast nutrient

Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Mash Schedule
Sacch rest 90 min @ 147 F
Sparge 1 20 min @ 147 F
Sparge 2 15 min @ 150 F

Made a 2 liter starter (2012-08-26). 117 g of DME (I was short on DME). About 3 tbsp sugar added. Shook a few times. Decent, but not great start.

First brew day with Ezra. He liked the spent grains.

FG: 1.004 on 2012-09-18  
Ezra eating handful of spent grains

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: BeerClings

Some people like to label their home-brewed beer. A friend of mine makes wine with his wife. Together, they design colorful and clever labels on the computer for each of their wines. For them, the label making is part of the process and part of what they like about making wine at home. But many people are not like that. Designing, printing, and applying (don't forget removing) labels can add hours to the overall process. And, while there may not be a lot of wine bottles to fill per batch, a typical 5 gallon batch of home-brewed beer requires at least 48, 12 ounce bottles, which means that beer labels require more effort. Honestly, I never put labels on my bottles. Bottling, as opposed to kegging, is labor intensive enough.

One option for homebrewers that bottle and would like labels is BeerClings. BeerClings are reusable labels for beer bottles. Homebrewers can easily slap these on their bottles of homebrew. As it states on the product's website, "BeerClings are an exciting answer to the tedious labeling process undertaken by home brewers." I think that statement is accurate.

To test the BeerClings and get a feel for how well they work as advertised, I did the following:

  • I put the labels on two different sized bottles. The labels fit on both.
  • As you can see in the photo, I was able to mark the bottles with dry erase marker. To test this feature, I used a damp paper towel to remove my writing, and then write new words on the label. It worked fine, no problems. 

BeerClings on Bottles
  • I put a label on a beer in the refrigerator and left it there for a couple weeks. The label adhered fine. I took it out of the refrigerator and made sure the label did not come off in the condensation. No problems. The hold was solid.
A Sheet of BeerClings
The BeerClings definitely cling. They are easy to take off and reapply. The maker stated that he "went through a lot of material and the one [he] settled on blew the others away." I believe it.

Unfortunately, there is just one design at the moment. The maker wants to have labels for every beer style eventually.

The cost is $5 for a sheet of 12.

I was impressed by how well the BeerClings worked. I recommend them!