Robust Porter 2014

>> Monday, June 30, 2014

I brewed up a Robust Porter over the weekend. The recipe was somewhat of a mix between the last two smoked porters minus the smoked malt. BJCP guidelines describe this style as A substantial, malty dark ale with a complex and flavorful roasty character. 

Here's the recipe is I made it:

3.25 # Crisp Maris Otter
3.25 # Muntons Pearl Malt
0.75 # Crisp Medium Crystal
0.75 # Crisp Light Crystal
0.50 # Crisp Chocolate Malt
0.25 # Crisp Pale Chocolate Malt
0.75 # Weyermann Munich II
0.30 # Briess Black Patent (added to the mash right before the sparge)
28g Chinook (60 min)
28g Willamette (20 min)
14g US Goldings (10 min)
1/2 Whirlfloc
1/2t Wyeast yeast nutrient
WLP862 Cry Havoc in 1L starter

Mash at 153F for 60 min. Ferment at 58F

Brewing Notes
No issues other than the gravity was a touch higher than I anticipated. Target was 1.061 and measured was 1.065. This brew smelled amazing during the mash. Looking forward to giving it a try when it's ready.

Update 7/2/2014

I was able to chill this beer down to the low 60's and put it in the fermentation chamber overnight to get it down to 58F before pitching. Fermentation took off fairly quickly. There's quite a bit of hop aroma coming off the fermentation. Hopefully I didn't overdo it for the style. I'm sure I'll like it, but I was planning on entering this one in a competition so hopefully the judges will like it too.

Update 7/7/2914
The krausen seems to be dropping but there's still a fair amount of activity. The fermentation chamber smells awesome.


Sour Saison Experiment

>> Sunday, June 15, 2014

I feel like I've been brewing a lot of sour beers lately, not a bad thing at all. I was at my LHBS a couple nights ago and they had a pack of Fast Souring Lacto GB110, a new offering from Gigayeast. My first thought was to brew up more Berliner Weisse, but I already have 10 gallons from our recent Big Brew Day event so I figured I'd try something different. I love saisons and thought it'd be interesting to do a sour version of the style. This recipe is a little more complicated than most recipes because it involves two boils.

The basic process is mash, sparge, split batch in half (one for souring, one for non-souring), boil separately with respective hop and spice additions, and ferment separately. One half will be fermented with the lacto and the other half gets WLP568 Saison Blend. My goal is to get souring from the lacto fermentation, and some nice Belgian yeast character from the yeast blend. When fermentation is done, they'll be blended together. Hopefully I end up with a really good complex sour beer and not a mediocre beer resulting from an unnecessarily complex process.

Here's the recipe:

16.0# Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
2.0# Weyerman Pale Wheat Malt
28g US Goldings (90 mins non-sour half)
28g Aged Hops (60 min sour half)
WLP568 Belian Saison Blend (non-sour half)
GB110 Fast souring lacto (for sour half)

The remaining ingredients are split in half with half going into each boil:
14g US Goldings (15 min)
20g Ginger root, grated (12 min)
2.0# Candi syrup, Simplicity
Zest from one orange (5 min)
8g Coriander, ground (5 min)
8g Grains of Paradise, ground (5 min)
20 Black peppercorns, ground (5 min)
14g Simcoe (2 min)
14g Amarillo (2 min)
1t Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F. Collect 13gallons then split in half. 90min boil. Ferment at room temp allowing both to free-rise as much as they want.

Brewing notes:
No issues to speak of other than two boils make for a long brew day. We took a break between the two boils to listen to the NHC Awards ceremony to see if my Peppermint Chocolate Stout medaled (it didn't). The non-sour portion took off. The sour half is going a little slower.

Update 6/16/2014
The lacto seems to be taking off now. It took about 48 hours but it's now developing a bit of a krausen. On the other hand, the WLP568 took off like a rocket with a one inch krausen forming within the first couple hours.

Update 6/24/2014
Sour half is still chugging away. I'm going to try to pull a sample this weekend and see where it's at. 

The clean half seemed like fermentation had slowed so I swapped the blowoff hose for the airlock. Well it wasn't done and it blew the airlock out within 24 hours. Fermentation is still really active and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Update 7/2/2014
Both halves are still chugging along. The lacto half has a thin krausen but is still showing an occasional burp in the airlock. The saison yeast blend krausen has finally dropped a bit, but like the lacto it doesn't seem to be quite done yet. These might be ready for sampling in the next week or so. 

Update 7/7/2014
The unsoured half seems to be done, but the sour half is still chugging away. The krausen isn't as high as it was at its peak, but it's still there and the airlock is showing activity about once per 8-9 seconds. I'll let this ride for a few more days and see where it's at.

Update 7/9/2014
I got impatient and pulled a small sample of each half. Unsoured half has some nice yeast character that compliment the spice additions. The sour half is a little disappointing in that it is barely sour. My plan was to blend the two and end up with mid-level tartness in this beer; something noticeable but not mouth puckering. Based on my experience with Wyeast lacto in my Berliner Weiss, this should have been more than enough time to have significantly lowered the pH, but if I were to blend right now I don't think anyone would even know it was a sour beer. I tried measuring the pH with my 2.8 - 4.4 pH test strips and they don't even register. I decided to go ahead and pitch some of the Wyeast lacto + Jolly Pumpkin blend I saved from my most recent Berliner brew. In hoping this will help increase the tartness level.

Update 8/7/2014
I pulled a sample of each fermenter last night. The non-sour half is really nice with classic spicy saison character. The sour half is very similar but with some mild but noticeable tartness. It's about the level of tartness I was hoping to get by blending the two, so I don't think I'll be able to blend them after all or it'll just get lost. I think I might let the sour half go a little longer to see what happens with the JP dregs, but I'll probably keg the non-sour half this weekend.

Update 9/20/2014
Just got my scoresheets for the 2014 Grace Lutheran Bier Brauen (GLBB). I also entered this one in the Beehive Brew-off (BBO). Both entries were from the non-soured half. 

At BBO this beer scored a 36 with the only negative comments being that the carbonation was low. I had to hurry and get this in the bottle for BBO, so I tried to force carb it in about 24 hours and I knew it was a bit under carb'd. For GLBB I had a bit more time to up the carbonation and it ended up scoring a 44. Sadly, it did not medal, but I'll take a 44 any day. It had some great comments from the judges and I really dig this beer, so this recipe is a keeper. I can't wait for the sour portion to get a little age on it.

Update 10/7/2014
I pulled a sample from the sour half. I'm happy to say it has some really nice tartness. It's not as sour as my Berliners but it's not too far off. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most sour, my fruit lambics are a 10, 2014 Berliners are about a 7, and this sour saison is a solid 6. I decided to go ahead and rack this beer to a keg to force carb. I'll probably go ahead and bottle from the keg after it's carb'd.


Sour IPA #1

>> Monday, June 09, 2014

I did another late night brew session last Wednesday night. This time I made an experimental beer inspired by Red Swingline IPA Primitif from Trinity Brewing. I got a chance to try this beer at The Rackhouse Pub's All Colorado Rare Beer Tasting last year. If you get a chance to try any of their beers, do it...especially the sour/wild beers. There isn't a ton of information about this beer, but their website describes it as follows:

Red Swingline, IPA Primitif. DRAFT Magazine's Top 25 Beers in the World for 2013! A wild and sour session IPA. Brewed with three heavily fruity hops, coriander, and tangerine zest the profile is definitely American in focus. Aged in French Oak Chardonnay barrels with souring Lactobacillus, funky Brettanomyces yeast, and dry-hopped in each individual barrel. This beer is a definite wow moment. 4.1% ABV; pH 3.6; 100 IBUs; rare.

When I found out they were claiming 100 IBU's on this beer, I had to call BS. I didn't detect hardly any bitterness and bitterness can really clash with tartness.

I found out a little bit more about their process from tidbits of info from various blogs and interviews. Trinity performs a sour mash, so they aren't relying on lactobacillus for souring during fermentation. After the mash it is boiled with hop additions that result in reported IBU level of 100. The sourness doesn't boil out, so they're left with a soured and highly hopped beer straight from the kettle. After fermentation the beer ages in French Chardonnay barrels for eight months. I think a lot of the bitterness ages out in the barrel. At some point, they dry hop the crap out of this beer with Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo. The result is an amazing beer for sour beer lovers at hop heads.

EDIT: To my surprise, I recently got an email from Jason Yester, Captain of the Pirate Ship at Trinity Brewing. He assured me this is a 100IBU beer. He also sent me a recipe that I hope to brew soon that should yield results closer to Swingline than this first attempt was. Props to Jason for being such a cool guy and being willing to share his knowledge and expertise.

So right up front I'll say this recipe isn't intended to be a clone and I don't expect it to turn out exactly the same as Red Swingline but I'm hoping for something drinkable and reminiscent of Red Swingline..

I'm using a similar process as my Berliner, so I'll ferment with lacto for a few days to get the sourness level I want. That means the IBU level has to stay low; lacto doesn't like IBU levels much above 6, so there are no hop additions prior to 1 minute left in the boil. I'm also incorporating hop stands at sub-isomerization temps, trying to extract flavor and aroma without bitterness. Here's the recipe and process as I tried it on my first attempt at making this beer. I had to change a couple things from what I'd planned. For example, my local grocery store didn't have tangerines, so I went with navel orange zest.

7.5 # Muntons Pearl Malt
8.0 oz Briess Crystal 20
8.0 oz Crisp Extra Light Crystal
8.0 oz Briess Carapils
7.0g Coriander (5 min)
Zest from 2 navel oranges (5min)
0.5t Yeast Nutrient
14g Mosaic (1 min)
7g Columbus (1 min)

1st hop stand at 165F for 30 min
7g Citra (60 min hop stand)
14g Amarillo (60 min hop stand)
28.3g Cascade (60 min hop stand)
7g Mosaic (60 min hop stand)

2nd hop stand at 140F for 30 min
14g Citra (30 min hop stand)
14g Mosaic (30 min hop stand)

Dry hop
28g Citra
28g Mosaic
28g Amarillo

Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus 
Gigayeast GY054 Vermont IPA

Mash at 152F. Perform hop stands as indicated. Ferment at 68F.  Pitch lacto at least four days and up to seven days before pitching yeast.

Update 6/9/2014
Brew day was fine on this batch, no real issues. I forgot to mention above, but you do not want to aerate this beer...just chill and pitch. Judging by the way the lacto took off, my IBU level is definitely low.

Update 6/12/2014
I pitched the Vermont IPA yeast today. Cracking open the fermenter, I was greeted with the aroma of hops and pleasant acidity. Once primary wraps up I'll dry hop it.

Update 6/15/2014
I pulled a sample today. The gravity is down to 1.007 and it has an amazing peach aroma. The tartness is there but it's a little more subdued than I'd hoped; It's probably perfect for people that don't like a really intense tartness. I'm going to cold crash it and try to get the yeast to drop out, then I'll dry hop for a few days.

Update 6/23/2014
Dry hops went in today. I also decided to add an ounce of medium toast American oak that had been soaking in Pinot noir for the past few months. I'm hoping the oak will add some complexity since it didn't turn out as sour as I wanted. 

Update 9/16/2014
Even though this beer didn't turn out as planned, it is a pretty nice beer. It has great hop flavor and aroma and the combination of hops work really well together. I decided to enter it in the 2014 Bier Brauen competition and it took second place in category 23 Specialty Beer. Granted, this is a lot smaller comp than NHC or Beehive Brew-off, but it's still nice to have it be recognized. I haven't gotten my scoresheets back yet but I'm interested to read the comments.