Old Ale 2018

>> Sunday, November 18, 2018

Today I'm brewing a style I've never brewed before, an Old Ale. We recently took the family on a trip to California and we stopped into Beachwood BBQ where they had Zwart Black Star on tap. It was delicious and when we got back, I noticed Wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale blend was a featured release for Q4 2018. Wyeast's description of the blend is as follows:

Species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae & Brettanomyces blend
To bring in a bit of English brewing heritage we developed the “Old Ale” blend. It includes an attenuative ale strain along with a small amount of Brettanomyces. The blend will ferment well in dark worts, producing fruity beers with nice complexity. The Brettanomyces adds a pie cherry-like flavor and sourness during prolonged aging.
Flocculation - Medium
Attenuation - 75-80%
Temp Range - 68-75F
Alcohol Tolerance - 14% ABV
There aren't a ton of commercial examples of Old Ales. Here is the BJCP description for the style:
An ale of moderate to fairly significant alcoholic strength, bigger than standard beers, though usually not as strong or rich as barleywine. Often tilted towards a maltier balance. “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter's night” - Michael Jackson. 
Strength and character varies widely. The predominant defining quality for this style is the impression of age, which can manifest itself in different ways (complexity, lactic, Brett, oxidation, leather, vinous qualities, etc.). Even if these qualities are otherwise faults, if the resulting character of the beer is still pleasantly drinkable and complex, then those characteristics are acceptable. In no way should those allowable characteristics be interpreted as making an undrinkably off beer as somehow in style. Old Peculier is a fairly unique type of beer that is quite different than other Old Ales.

For this first attempt at the style, I'm using the following  recipe.

14.0# Crisp Maris Otter, floor-malted
0.25# Crisp Crystal Malt 75L
0.25# Simpsons Double Roasted Crystal
0.25# Briess Black Patent
1.0# Black Treacle Syrup (*secondary)
35g Nugget (60 min)
(2) Wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale Blend

Mash at 152F, 90 minute boil, start fermentation at 65F, then ramp up to 70F over 4 days.

*The only reason I'm putting the treacle syrup in secondary is I couldn't find it locally. I had to order it online and it still hasn't arrived. Normally you'd probably add this at the end of the boil so that you don't lose any aromatics.

Brewing Notes
No issues. OG came in at 20.6  brix (1.083). Water-wise, this batch got 3 gallons of distilled water along with about 8.5 gallons of carbon filtered tap water.

Update 11/19/2018
Fermentation is pretty active this morning.

Update 11/20/2018
Checked this morning and fermentation was so active that there was a little but of blow-off between yesterday and today. My stainless blow-off setup contained everything, so there wasn't any mess.

Update 11/25/2018
Still chugging along. The Black Treacle syrup still hasn't arrived yet, but it's on its way. **Updated** Our mail carrier dropped off my Black Treacle this morning before I left for work.

Update 11/27/2018
I added the Black Treacle last night. I heated the syrup a bit by placing it in a bowl of hot water. This helped ensure it wasn't too thick and sticky to flow into my fermenter. Fermentation had slowed a bit, but the addition of simple sugars has increased activity.

Update 12/5/2018
We've had a bit of a cold snap and I noticed my fermentation chamber was having a hard time maintaining the 70F temp. I decided to move the carboy into the house for time being. I decided to pull a sample as well. The refractometer read around 12.2, giving a corrected gravity in the ballpark of 1.026. I think the actual gravity is lower than that, but there's no point in taking a hydrometer reading yet. The flavor was really nice, quite malt-focused and I can pick up on some of the complexity from the Black Treacle. There isn't really any perceptible brett character or acidity quite yet. There's some alcoholic warmth, but it's not hot or fusel. Definitely excited about the potential for this beer.

Update 2/10/2019
I kegged this beer yesterday. The brett is noticeable, but I'd say it definitely comes across as more fruity than funky. Bitterness is on the low side, and the malt comes through. There's also a bit of sweetness. I'm planning on force carbing in the keg, then bottling the while batch off the keg.