Saturday, November 7, 2015

Autumn Saison

Wow, my last blog post was well over a year ago. As I mentioned I started my doctoral program and have little time for much extra-curricular activities. In the past year I have brewed less than I am used to, but I have been able to knock out a few beers. I won't do much of a recap here (I'll save that for a later post) but I have almost exclusively brewed sour or funky beers. I decided last winter to give up on trying to brew clean beers (at least any with any age on them) and so I have started to develop two house mixed-strains (brett, lacto and sac.). I have nailed down a solid Berliner procedure and have brewed several Berliner and Gose, again an update will come later.

For my Autumn Saison I decided to brew a pumpkin inspired beer. However, instead of a pumpkin spice slant, I went for other fall flavors of pumpkins, dark brown sugar, toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh sage. The squash/pumpkin and their seeds were from a local farm that we are a CSA member of (Suzies Farm). The sage was grown in my yard and I purchased dark brown Muscavado sugar. I cut up the squash, de-seeded, and roasted the squash with some brown sugar. I then toasted the seeds to  a deep brown toast level (they had a nice toasty, nutty flavor). I threw the roasted squash and crushed toasted seeds into the mash. I added the muscavado sugar to the boil and threw in some Ultra hops at the start of the boil for the lone addition. At flame out I threw in about 12 fresh sage leaves. I chilled and then pitched my House Blend #1 (WLP 644 "Sacc Trois" and WLP 670 American Farmhouse) it was the second generation of this blend. The beer has a wonderful orange hue, a nice aroma of burnt sugar, molasses and sage. I'm looking forward to having this beer with Thanksgiving dinner. My next beer will be a Dark Winter Saison inspired by Lost Abbey's 10 Commandments and Mike Tonsmiere's annual dark saison beers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sour Update

So I have dabbled in sour beer brewing for about 7 years. I have never really made a consistent effort in the brewing of sour beers (something I think is important to do if you want to be successful) but I have brewed a batch or two a year. This includes Berliner Weisse, Gose, Flemish Sours and American Wild/Sour Ales. I have had two batches that I had to drain pour, and a couple that have been great and served to great acclaim. My first attempt just took 5th place at the San Diego County Fair, it was a 7 year old Flemish Red. I had a dark Saison get infected with my “garage” brett strain and so I decided to start adding the dregs of some of my favorite sour beers including Russian River and early batches of the Bruery beers. This beer came out wonderful after having to wait a year and a half for diacetyl to get cleaned up by the brett. I served this beer on tap at the 2011 NHC Club Night here in San Diego. It was a big hit and the keg kicked quickly. I also brewed three Berliner Weisse and two Gose that came out very tart and refreshing. I aged the Gose on Cranberries, which ended up being a great combination of flavors. As I mentioned in my last post I have been reading American Sour Beers and have been re-inspired to brew more sour beers and do it with greater purpose and consistency to build my skills and knowledge in this arena of brewing.

In the past few years I have tried to brew a Flemish Sour every two years and now I have three versions sitting in my garage. I sampled them and gave them some quick descriptives and letter grade. I have the notes below. I also tasted a few beers that I hadn’t touched in a year to see where they were in their funkification. One is a White Labs Berliner Blend and theother was a Sour Mash Berliner. My previous Berliners were using Wyeast and US 05. The other two beers were a Squash Saison brewed around the same time as the Dark Saison, which was also infected by my “garage” strain of Brett. I also added several dregs of commercial sours to this beer. It is close to 5 years old and the diacetyl hung on for dear life the past 4 years. The final beer was a 100% Brett. Anomalus from Al B at East Coast Yeast. The yeast was old at the time brewed it and although I built up a starter the beer never really came together well, lots of vinyl phenols. I remained patient and let it sit with my fingers crossed and an optimistic outlook.

Below is the breakdown of my short tasting notes and letter grades assigned to each beer. I have also noted the current treatments and thoughts about what I might do with each beer.

Flanders Batch #1 (brewed 2007). White Labs Flemish Sour Ale Blend. B- This beer is sour, not acetic, relatively one dimensional and has a significant amount of vinyl phenols. I am thinking of pitching some additional brett and fresh wort to try and convert the phenols, but maybe just more age is needed. A good beer to use in a blend in the future.

Flanders Batch #2 (brewed 2009). White Labs Flemish Sour Ale Blend. B+ This beer is super sour, has a rich balsamic vinegar quality to it. I think this would be a good acid beer to blend with a newer less acidic batch. 

Rosy Rosalare: Flemish Sour (Brewed 2011). WYeast Rosalare. B+ This beer has a nice tart flavor, with good structure that gives the beer a nice mouthfeel. It has some fruity esters that remind me of cherries. It does have some slight vinyl phenols. This has some great promise and the esters scream, add cherries. I added 2 pounds of the tartest sweet fresh cherries I could get at the farmers market and then I added 3 pounds of frozen dark tart cherries I purchased from Costco.

Lacto Berliner: (Brewed 2013) B+ Light Sourness, Plain taste, very light body. Since this beer was so mellow I decided to add 2 pounds of frozen peaches from last year. I have heard peach is the hardest of the fruits to show through in a sour, so I figured that this would be a good base beer to test out how peaches do in sour homebrews. There was some small visible signs of refermentation after I added the peaches.

Sour Mash Berliner. (Brewed 2013) B-/B Funky, Sour, some fruit, but also a substantial vomit-like aroma and flavor, although the vomit is les sin the flavor than the aroma. I have heard about this with sour mashes so even though I’m frustrated with it, I expected it. If you can get past the vomit aspects, the fruitiness and sourness are really nice. I had 3 pounds of blackberries I froze last summer that I added to the beer about two weeks ago. There was visible signs of refermentation after I added the blackberries. The vomit-like aroma has almost dissipated at this point.

Sour Squash Saison (Brewed 2008) A- Strong sour, funky, golden color. Good body and structure. Slight/balanced acetic. Could be blended or dry hopped with a fruity, tropical or citrusy hop with good results. Diacetyl has almost completely faded, but I have a larger threshold than most.

100% Brett a. (Brewed 2013) A This one was a surprise. I didn’t add any souring bugs, and it has been aging in a corny keg, but the beer came out sour, fruity, funky and a dark golden color. I came across some really great nectarines and so I figured what the heck, lets throw these in with this beer and see where it goes. I thought I would have to dump this batch 6 months ago, glad I didn’t. I added almost 8 pounds of extremely fresh and tasty nectarines to a carboy and racked the beer on top. I may dry hop as well or age on some wine soaked oak cubes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Massive Update

Well I have been super busy, and just a bit lazy about updating the blog. I see that the last real update came in April. I have brewed 5 beers in that time. Four of those beers were served at various celebrations (work party, weddings, and rehearsal dinners). Those 4 beers were all served within a month of each other so I had to be on a tight schedule to make sure that the beers I was providing for the events were ready to go on those special days.

Those beers include the following beers, with quick descriptions. If your interested in any details leave a comment and I will expand:

Blonde: basic recipe, third batch, and it amazes me how awesome this beer comes out, I think this will become my base pale sour beer.

HopBrosia IPA: A basic IPA with all the hops I had that don’t have dank, pine and resin. I wanted a “fruit salad” flavor and aroma. Hopped with Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado, Huell Melon and Galaxy. I also used the Vermont Pale Ale yeasty from the Yeast Bay. The beer was young and it was a bit muddled, but overall a nice drinking beer.

Wedding Day Pale Ale: Basic pale ale recipe of two row, honey malt and victory. Hooped with a CTZ bittering charge, followed by Chinook, Amarillo and a bit of Citra at flame out. Great base malt to balance the nice piney, grapefruit, citrusy hops. Really happy with this one and I will be making the malt profile my base pale ale recipe. I also added grapefruit zest at flame out.

Cerveza de Jamica: This was for a rehearsal dinner that they served Mexican food. I wanted to make a beer that was fun, refreshing and went with the Mexican food theme. I modeled the beer after the traditional Mexican aqua fresca Jamaica (hibiscus flower tea)The base beer was a wit (although this could have been my basic wheat beer recipe) after fermentation ended, I added 1 pound of dried Jamica flowers. The beer instantly turned a bright pink, see the pictures below. I racked off the flowers after two days and then added a hop sack with a whole hand of fresh ginger (sliced), three cinnamon sticks, 5 cloves and 5 all spice rounds. The spices didn’t really stick out to me even after two days in the keg. The beer was magenta in color, tart, refreshing and a huge hit.

I got my results back from the NHC, and my Hoppy Wheat: Hot Curl entered into American Wheat beer got great feedback from the judges, but they said it was too hoppy for the style. It would have been marked down in the IPA category for being cloudy. Not too surprised but I was glad to hear they are expanding several of the BJCP categories. My cucumber saison did well, but unfortunately it didn’t make it to the next round in the veg, beer category. I probably need it too dry out a bit more for a saison.

I have been reading Mike Tonsmeire’s of the Mad Fermentationist Blog new book American Sour Beers: Innovative Techniquesfor Mixed Fermentations. Reading this book has re-inspired me for sour funky brewing that I had stepped away from as of late. Mike’s book is awesome and super helpful. I highly suggest it if you are brewing sours or are thinking about it. It’s a great addition to Jeff Sparrows’  Wild Brews Because of finding my inspiration I have also been messing with my sours that range in age from 5 years to 1+ years. I will post a second update regarding my sours soon.

Looking forward to brewing lots of beer this summer. I start my Doc program in the Fall, so I am not sure how much time I’ll have to brew in the next three years.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Two Session Beers: Session Lager and Grodziskie/Grater

Monday I brewed a couple of low ABV session beers. They were two beers that I had on my brewing agenda for some time, but due to brewing beers for a few obligations I hadn’t had the chance to get around to them.

The first beer I brewed was an interesting experience based on a historic style. My best friend’s mom is Polish and since she was one of the first people to let me try craft beer, and she bought my friend his first homebrew kit (which was essentially ours) I wanted to make a beer in her honor. The beer is called Grodziskie ( and more commonly Gratzer in German), which is a 100% oak smoked wheat beer. After reading about this beer online, in Radical Brewing, and Brewing with Wheat what I gather is that the beer is low in ABV, approximately 3-3.5%, highly hopped (for a historic Continental beer) and is made with 100% oak smoked wheat. I have wanted to brew this beer for a while, but considering that smoking my own wheat malt was not something I wanted to do, I thought I would be out of luck. When I was The Homebrewer, my local homebrew shop the other day I saw that they had oak smoked wheat malt, so I knew it was time to make this beer. I am excited about the oak smoked wheat beer being available, it has a lighter smoke profile than either Rauch malt, or cherry wood smoked malt. My only worry is that since it has a very light smoke profile, the smoke may not stand out enough. I went with one hop addition of northern brewer to get some bitterness, but no flavor or aroma, I want the smoke to stand out in the flavor and aroma. I opted for a Kolsh yeast since it is probably most historically accurate. The beer should be light, refreshing and slightly smoky. Perfect for bbq weather.

Recipe: Weyermann Oak Smoked Wheat, Rice Hulls. German Northern Brewer @ 60. Wyeast 2565 Kolsh Ale Yeast.

The second beer I brewed was a Lil’ Lager. Essentially it is an American Session Lager about 3% ABV and hopped with Nelson and Mosaic. I wanted to build up a healthy amount of lager yeast and I decided what better way to do this than to make a small lager and then re-pitch the yeast into a higher ABV beer at a later date. I pitched 3 packages of dry lager yeast. I kept the malt bill simple and used some non-traditional hops. This will give me a chance to see how these two hops work together.

Recipe: US 2 Row, Flaked Rice, and a dash of Rye and Honey Malt. Nelson @60, Mosaic @ 30, and Mosaic/Nelson at Flameout. Safe Lager 23.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 NHC Entries: Hot Curl and Cucumber Saison

I was able to get two spots for this years National Homebrewers Competition. The past two years I have not entered, so I am really excited to be able to get some feedback and hopefully make it out of round 1 again. When I was thinking which beers I wanted to enter I decided I wanted to enter a few beers that I have brewed in the past. The first was my cucumber saison, a really refreshing and drinkable beer that was a huge hit with my friends. The other was my hot curl, hoppy wheat beer. However, for this version I wanted to employ some new hops and make my second attempt at a hop burst hop schedule.  Below are further thoughts on each beer, modifications from the original recipes and the recipes.

Hot Curl Batch 2: Hop Burst Mosaic, Amarillo, Citra version

My Hot Curl recipe was my take on a relatively new style the White IPA or a Hoppy Wheat beer. I have been drinking a ton of Modern Times Fortunate Island and the other day I had Karl Strauss’ Mosaic Wheat. I often add a bit of wheat malt to my beers as I just feel it gives a well rounded flavor and mouthfeel. Since I enjoy Fortunate Islands so much and my first take on Hot Curl was good, but a little one dimesnsional I decided that I would mix up the hops a bit and use the hop bursting technique I used on my last hoppy wheat. I have a pretty good selection of hops right now (Niko brewing has had some great sales). Fortunate Island uses Amarillo and Citra, so I knew I wanted to start there and I also added mosaic since it is supposed to have some awesome fruity properties. I went with an ounce of each at 15, and 2 ounces of Mosaic and Amarillo and 1 ounce of Citra and flameout. I am really hoping that this beer comes out with a huge fruity hop profile. It should be great fresh and it is a pretty easy beer to re-tweak if needed. I thought about suing some Nelson as well, but decided against it since Nelson is so unique.

Recipe: US 2 Row, White Wheat, Honey Malt. Mosaic, Amarillo and Citra @ 15 and Flameout. US-05.

Cucumber Saison Batch 2

Last time I made this beer I made a 10 gallon batch and split it into two 5 gallon batches. One got cucumber and the other jasmine green tea. They were both awesome, but I felt the Jasmine version became too sweet over time. The cucumber version was great fresh and with a bit of age. I may have a hard time finding local organic cucumbers this time of year (last time I used cucs from our Suzie’s Farm CSA). I also decided last time that I will de-seed the cucumbers since I think they gave the beer an weird bitter quality. I may also dry hop the beer with a bit of Sorachi Ace hops. The base beer is a simple light saison. It should be a great beer to transition into spring/warmer weather beers.

Recipe: US 2 Row, White Wheat, Turbinado Sugar, Northern Brewer hops @60, Horizon @ 20 and 0. WYeast French Saison

Friday, February 7, 2014

AD Man Tribute Ales

Dad and Mom

In December my dad announced that he would be retiring from his 30 year career in the Advertising Industry in March. It came as a total surprise to me. I felt since he loved what he did he wouldn't want to retire. However, after talking to him I can tell although he loves the work and the industry, he knew it was time to move on to something else. In addition he gets extra time to spend with my nephews, which I am guessing played a big role in his decision. The owner of the agency and my dad's long time business partner wanted to celebrate my dad's retirement with his "work family" and so he put together a evening to celebrate my dad. In the planning stages I was asked to make some homebrew for the celebration. I talked to my dad and I knew he really enjoyed Deschutes' Brewing Chain Breaker White IPA, so we decide that one of the beers I would make would be a White IPA/Hoppy Wheat Beer. We also talked about an approachable beer that everyone would enjoy. I have made a Belgian Pale Ale in the past and have added Meyer Lemon zest to give it a unique citrus twist, so we decide that would be the second beer. With the holidays I was crunched for time and all of a sudden we were a week away from the celebration. Realizing that I had only 7 days to brew, ferment, and package a beer for serving I started to worry. My Saturday brew day went well (I undershot my gravity on the White IPA) and I was able to knock out the two beers pretty quickly, I didn't have time to make starters so I pitched two packs of yeast, I let the beer ferment until Wednesday night and then racked the beer into the kegs and cranked up the CO2. I shook the kegs and released the glass on a regular basis. On Friday afternoon I packed up the kegs and took them to the party, my fingers crossed that the beer would be carbed enough. To my elation the beers were both carbed and they were big hits among my dad's coworkers. Both kegs blew by the end of the night. The white IPA/hoppy wheat was really tasty and sessionable and it will definitely be a recipe I try again. The Belgian Pale was a huge hit as well. I was originally going to use meyer lemon zest, but I had a gallon Ziploc of frozen juiced meyer lemon rinds from last spring. I threw them in a  mesh bag and added them to the boil the last 10 minutes. The beer came out much more like a lemon beer then a Belgian with a hint of lemon. Luckily it was a wonderfully warm January evening here in San Diego and a lemon beer was perfect.

I congratulate my dad and wish him a wonderful retirement from Advertising and wish him luck in what ever he does next (he says he wants to teach geography at a community college).