NZ Pilsner 2020

>> Sunday, July 26, 2020

I'm breaking in my new 15 gallon Spike Brew Kettle by brewing another New Zealand Pilsner. This one uses a bit of Maris Otter in place of German Pale (because that's what I had on hand). I'm trying out Saflager S-189 on this batch, and I'm also using a little less Loral than I did the last time I brewed this beer. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today:

6.75# Viking Pilsner Malt
0.75# Crisp Maris Otter
0.3125# Weyermann Cara Red
0.25# Pale Wheat Malt
1.0g BrewTan B
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
4.66g BCAA
14g Motueka (1 min)
14g Rakau (1 min)
14g Waimea (1 min)
4g Loral Cryohops (1 min)
21g Motueka (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Rakau (Whirlpool @170F)
21g Waimea (Whirlpool @170F)
4g Loral Cryohops (Whirlpool @170F)
(2) Saflager S-189
Yeast Nutrient
28g Motueka (Dryhop)
28g Rakau (Dryhop)
28g Waimea (Dryhop)
7g Loral Cryohops (Dryhop)

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 47F then ramp up to 52F over a few days.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of distilled water, add:
4.0g Gypsum
2.8g Epsom Salt
4.8g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. I was a little worried that I might have a different boil off rate compared to my keggle, but it wasn't too different. OG came in at 1.052 which is exactly the same as the last time I brewed this recipe.

Update 7/27/2020
I had to let the wort chill overnight to get it down to 47F, so the yeast wasn't pitched until this afternoon. The wort was aerated at 0.5L/minute for 2 minutes. The yeast was rehydrated before pitching.

Update 7/29/2020
Fermentation is a little slower starting than I'm used to, and/or than I prefer. The Tilt started out bouncing back and forth between 1.052 and 1.053, so the actual gravity was likely right on the cusp. It held pretty constant at 1.052 most of yesterday then started reading 1.051 early evening yesterday. I started fermentation out fairly cold for this strain so I've been allowing the temp to slowly rise. Hopefully it'll take off soon. 

Update 7/30/2020
Per the Tilt, gravity is down to 1.048 this morning and I'm hearing a glug, glug, glug sound coming out of my fermentation chamber, so activity has definitely picked up. Temp is set at 52F right now and I'll likely keep it there until the diacetyl rest.

Update 7/31/2020
Things are really moving along this morning with gravity readings down to 1.038.

Update 8/2/2020
Gravity is down to 1.020 this morning. I went ahead and dropped the dry hops and started raising the temps for the diacetyl rest. Normally I'd wait to dry hop until after the d-rest, but there's been a be lot of talk about yeast biotransformation lately, usually more related to brewing hazy IPAs. My understanding is not all yeast are capable of biotransformation, or at least they're not all equal in their capability. It's a fairly complex process that's been studied quite a bit recently, likely due to the popularity of hazy IPAs. Long story short, some yeast are capable of transforming hop compounds into different compounds, adding complexity to the finished beer. I've brewed this beer several times, so I thought I'd see if I notice any difference by dry hopping a little earlier than "normal". Here's a link to a Lallemand article on the subject.

Update 8/3/2020
Tilt is currently reading 1.015, but has read as low as 1.012. Current temp is 65F. I'll let fermentation finish out then hook up my cold-crash assembly and dropping the temps in order to get as much yeast and hop debris to drop out of suspension.

Update 8/11/2020
I started cold crashing this beer over the weekend. Gravity finished out right about 1.010 - 1.011, so ~5.5% ABV.

Update 8/16/2020
This beer went into the keg today.


American Lager 2020 - Re-brew Experiment

>> Sunday, July 12, 2020

An unfortunate thing happened this past week; both my Kellerbier and my NZ Pilsner kegs kicked, leaving me with only Doppelbock and Adambier on tap. The Doppelbock and Adambier are both really good, but they're not exactly what most people would consider easy-drinking summertime beers. So, today I'm doing some experimentation by re-brewing my American Lager recipe from earlier this year. I thought this beer turned out really well and I'd sent some off to NHC in hopes it would score well. Unfortunately, COVID reared it's ugly head and NHC was cancelled. I ended up entering this beer in two subcategories at our local Lagerpalooza competition, and it did pretty well taking Silver for American Lager and Gold for International Pale Lager, It's also been a favorite for one of my sons-in-law. I like it as well, especially as a refreshing warm weather beer.

For today, I scaled the recipe up ever so slightly so that hopefully I end up with a post-boil volumne right about 6 gallons. The reason is I'm planning on splitting this into two fermenters, pitching one with Saflager 34/70 (reportedly the same strain as Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager) and the other half with WLP940 Mexican Lager Yeast. WLP940 is a strain I haven't used before, but it seems like a pretty good choice for the style.

7.56# Rahr American 6-row Malt
0.24# Briess Crystal 10L
0.5# Rice Syrup Solids (5 min)
0.5# Corn Sugar (5 min)
1.0g BrewTan B (dissolved in warm water, mash)
1.5ml Hopshot (60 min) - This is scaled up a bit higher as I thought the previous version could use a touch more bitterness.
18g Fuggle (1 min) - Scaled up a bit more to try to get a touch more hop flavor/aroma contribution
Wyeast Nutrient
4.66g BCAA (Dissolved in warm water, 5 min)
0.5 Whirlfloc
Saflager 34/70
WLP940 Mexican Lager

Protein rest at 122F -130F for 20 min, then raise to 149F for the duration of the mash. Collect ~7.75-8 gallons. 90 minute boil. Ferment at 52F.

Water Profile - To 10 gallons of RO water add:
3.8g Gypsum
3.2g Epsom Salts
4.9g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes
No issues. I didn't check 1st running or pre-boil gravity, but post-boil came out ~11.8 brix (1.046). I was able to chill down to 65F then I transferred to two 5 gallon fermenters and put each in one of my fermentation fridges where they'll continue to chill down to 52F. Next I'll aerate and pitch yeast.

Update 7/15/2020
Things are moving right along. Both beers had really fluffy bright white krausen with little waves and peaks for about 48 hours. Today it's dropped to a uniform thickness of about an inch. I didn't use my Tilts in these beers, only because I completely forgot to wash and sanitize them.

Update 7/20/2020
Things are progressing along. As I mentioned on 7/15, I didn't use my Tilts on this batch, despite me finding them extremely useful for timing diacetyl rests. I noticed both krausens starting to drop, so this time, I allowed the temp to free-rise to 65F starting on 7/18.

Update 7/26/2020
I kegged both of these today. Both got about 5ml of Biofine in the keg, then the kegs went into the keezer. I'll probably wait at least a week before tapping.

Update 8/3/2020
I pulled samples off both kegs this past weekend. The 34/70 half is very much like the first batch, a very clean and refreshing beer. 
The WLP940 half is nice as well and definitely has some different flavor and aroma components. Interestingly, I swear I'm picking up a very slightly skunky component...similar to Mexican lagers packaged in clear glass bottles. This character is absent in the 34/70 half which has me scratching my head. Both beers were fermented in 5-gallon glass carboys, each in one of my two glass door fermentation chambers. Neither were directly knowingly exposed to UV light, the usual culprit when it comes to skunking. I'm wondering if what I'm perceiving as skunky is due to an association in my mind that's tied to this particular yeast strain. I'll probably end up re-brewing this and use my SS Brewtech fermenter and see if I get a similar character.


Fruited Farmhouse Ale 2020

>> Friday, July 03, 2020

Today I'm brewing a Farmhouse Ale, which can be a hard style to define. When I think of a Farmhouse Ale, I think of things along the lines of traditional Saisons, which were lower ABV than a lot of modern examples. In my opinion Farmhouse Ales hit on the following points:
  • Expressive yeast character.
  • Overall rustic rather than refined character.
  • Despite the rustic character, it's still crisp and finishes dry and refreshing, and well balanced.
  • Usually highly carbonated; effervescent.
That still leaves quite a bit of room for interpretation and creativity which is one of the reasons that it's a fun style to brew. This is one I will most likely bottle rather than put on tap, as I'll want to cellar some and see how it developes over time. This will also be a low-ish ABV beer, so along the lines of a table-strength Saison. I've used the Saison Blend yeast before and really liked it's subtle "Belgian" character combined with a bit of Brett funk. Here's some info from Wyeast:
Species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus & Brettanomyces blend
Profile: A blend of two saison strains and Brettanomyces creates a dry and complex ale. Classic earthy and spicy farmhouse character meets tropical and stone fruit esters. Aging brings elevated Brett flavor. Expect high attenuation with this blend.
Notes: This blend contains Wyeast yeast strains that have been classified as Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus using rapid PCR analysis. These strains carry the STA1 gene, which is the “signature” gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus and will be found in all diastaticus strains. Flocculation: Low
Attenuation: 80-90%
Temp Range: 65-80°F
Alcohol Tolerance: 12%
I'm planning on fruiting this beer but I haven't picked the fruit quite yet. It depends how my fruit harvest goes, but it'll likely involve tart cherries, raspberries, or blackberries.

The recipe today is based on the Fermentery Form Extra Farmhouse Ale recipe published on Craft Beer & Brewing. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

5.58# Viking Pilsner malt
1.50# Chit malt
2.12# Weyermann Vienna
2.12# Spelt malt
58g Aged hops (90 minutes)
81g Willamette (90 minutes)
Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 3031 Saison-Brett Blend
Fruit TBD, secondary

Mash at 148F, 90 min boil, chill to 65F and pitch yeast then allow to free-rise.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at ~15.5 (1.061), which is a little higher than I was shooting for, but it's not too high. 

Update 7/6/2020
Fermentation seems to be rolling right along. As I mentioned above, I chilled to ~65F then brought it inside and it's been fermenting at room temp in my basement office, that's consistently around 70-72F. Fermentation does seem to be slowing a bit today with the krausen dropping from a high of about 2.5 inches to around 1 inch. Aroma in my office is quite fruity and tropical in character.

Update 8/3/2020
This beer is still in primary and there are faint traces of bubbles on top, possibly from brett working slowly, or possibly just CO2 coming out of solution. I'm going to transfer half onto 7.5# of blackberries (3# per gallon) and the other half onto 8# of a combination of peaches and apricots (3.2# per gallon). The target here is very much a fruit forward beer. I'm most worried about the blackberries since they tend to be a delicate flavor and this will be my first time using them. 

Update 8/10/2020
I started preparing the fruit tonight. One half will get 5.7# of Utah-grown peaches plus 3.0# apricot puree. The other half gets 4.0# of my home-grown blackberries plus 3.0# blackberry puree. The purees won't be added until I transfer the beer, but the fresh fruit was treated tonight. Both got treated with ~1/8t potassium metabisulfite dissolved in 1/2c RO water. This is a method used by several commercial breweries to sanitize raw fruit and it seems to really preserve the fresh fruit character. This will be allowed to off gas overnight before the beer is racked on top.

Update 8/11/2020
Beer was transferred from primary onto fruit this morning.  No issues, pics here:

Update 10/28/2020
I moved both of these out of my basement to start cold crashing and hopefully drop the fruit. The fruit had started settling out on its own, but it's still loose. The more compact it is, the less loss there will be so I'll let it sit cold as long as needed. I pulled samples of these a few weeks ago and really liked where they're headed. There's still a fair amount of bitterness but that will continue to evolve. Despite being dark purple, the Blackberry version is, as expected, fairly subtle berry character despite a heavy fruit addition. The Apricot/Peach version is bright peach flavor and aroma. Hopefully I'll be able to transfer these in the not too distant future.